15,000 residents lose homes in Manila as fire erupts

Powered by automated translation

MANILA // As many as 15,000 people are homeless after a huge fire engulfed an overcrowded slum in Manila, destroying thousands of homes and sending residents fleeing with their few possessions.

The inferno started in Parola compound, a sprawling slum near the port on Tuesday night and raged for about 10 hours, as hundreds of firefighters from across the Philippine capital hauled their hoses across rickety, tin roofs to reach the flames.

As the blaze whipped across the squalid area, sending a huge plume of smoke billowing into the night sky, residents ran for their lives carrying refrigerators, religious icons and other valuables.

Others, desperate to save their homes, used buckets of water to douse the fire.

About 3,200 homes, many made from little more than scrap wood, were destroyed and four people were injured. Fire investigator Edilberto Cruz, who is looking into the cause of blaze, said, “The houses in that place are all (made of) light materials. That is why the fire was quick to spread. We are just lucky that no one was killed.”

He said seven people suffered minor injuries but no fatalities were reported.

Manila city government officials said between 9,000 and 15,000 people from the area were left homeless.

At daylight thousands of people gathered on surrounding streets, warily guarding the belongings they had managed to salvage in the chaos while they waited for food and other aid to arrive.

Temporary evacuation centres have been set up at nearby gyms and schools, with food and water provided, said welfare officer Regina Jane Mata.

The Manila fire department said such fires were common in the city’s densely populated slums where many residents still use candles to light their homes.

Nearly a quarter of Manila’s 13 million residents live in slums due to poverty and a shortage of low-cost housing. Fire officer Edilberto Cruz said seven people suffered minor injuries in the fire that broke out on Tuesday night then quickly spread. No fatalities were reported.

But hours after the blaze was put out, many of the people were still huddled on a nearby road with their belongings, including clothes and even washing machines and electric fans.

The fire caused a traffic snarl-up, blocking delivery lorries going to and from the port.

* Agence France Presse