ARBIL, Iraq: A fire at a hotel in the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region on Friday killed 19 people, 14 of them Filipinos. Dozens more were injured, officials said.
The dead include three Iraqis, a Palestinian and another person of unknown nationality, said Saman Barzanji, director general of the Arbil health department.
The dozens of people injured were taken to hospital in Arbil, said Fakher Harki, the department’s spokesman.
Nawzad Hadi, the governor of Arbil province, said preliminary information indicated that the cause of the fire was an electrical problem in a sauna.
The fire took place at the four-star Capitol Hotel where rooms cost from $100-$240 per night.
The hotel’s website says it has a 740-square-meter spa that includes saunas and a pool.
Photos and video posted on social media showed dark grey smoke pouring from windows on the top floor of the building.
The Kurdistan region in north Iraq has largely been spared the deadly violence that plagues other parts of the country.
The region is frequently visited by tourists from other areas of Iraq and various countries in the region.
The Philippine government is ascertaining the identities of the Filipino victims.
In a radio interview, Presidential Communications Undersecretary Manuel Quezon 3rd said the foreign affairs department has dispatched a team to identify and bring back the remains of the victims.
“We are very sad about this. It’s a terrible way to die. We would like to get more details and do everything that is possible to bring our countrymen home and to look at every possibility to assist their families at this time of sadness and need,” Quezon said.
Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. urged the Department of Foreign Affairs to do everything to “repatriate the remains of the deceased OFWs the soonest time.”
“That is the best thing we can do to assuage the grief of their families,” Marcos said.
“To the families of these OFWs, I extend my deepest condolences and sympathies,” he added.
Marcos also urged the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to fast-track the release of whatever benefits and assistance the families of the deceased OFWs are entitled to receive.
“OWWA should immediately coordinate with the DFA to establish the identities of the victims and process the necessary documents so the benefits for their families can be readied even as the repatriation efforts are on-going,” the senator said.
An active member of OWWA is covered by insurance for the duration of his or her employment contract. This includes P100,000 for death due to natural causes and P200,000 for death due to accident. Legal heirs of a deceased OFW are entitled to receive an additional P20,000 for funeral expenses.
In addition, survivors of a deceased OFW are entitled to education assistance consisting of P5,000 for elementary, P 8,000 for high school and P10,000 for college per school year, as well as livelihood assistance amounting to P15,000 which is given to the surviving spouse.