BOCAUE, Bulacan: Two people died while 19 others were injured after a warehouse said to have contained firecrackers exploded on Wednesday morning in Barangay Binang 1st in Bocaue, Bulacan.
One of the fatalities was identified as Manuel Ayala, 62, a softdrinks dealer and former barangay chairman who was trapped inside his softdrinks warehouse that collapsed because of the blast. The other dead victim has yet to be identified.
Ten commercial establishments were damaged by the strong impact of the explosion at Gina Gonzales Fireworks on Manila North Road around 11:45 a.m., said Supt. Charlie Cabradilla, Bocaue Police chief.
Liz Mungcal, chief of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office, said at least 20 fire trucks from different municipalities as well as rescue teams immediately responded to the scene. Fire, which reached the fourth alarm, was declared out at around 1:30 p.m.
Bocaue Mayor Eleanor Villanueva-Tugna, who rushed to the site, said the incident was the first in the “fireworks capital” after nearly a decade.
“We’re finding out if Gina Gonzales Fireworks violated the law because it only had a store permit and it cannot manufacture or store firecrackers in a warehouse,” the mayor said in Filipino.
Most of the injured victims were bystanders, including the owner of the warehouse identified as Gina Lopez.
They were brought to St. Paul Hospital in Binang 1st and Mount Carmel Clinic in Barangay Bunlo.
William Sta. Ana, owner of Sta Ana Car Aircon Shop beside the warehouse, said he saw thick smoke come out of Gina’s Fireworks Store. Employees there panicked and asked for help, he said.
Sta. Ana said he told his three laborers to run for their lives. Less than a minute later, a powerful explosion was heard. Another blast followed.
A six-wheeler closed van fell on its right side while a passenger jeepney, a tricycle, a motorcycle and a Hyundai van were torched.
Glass windows of commercial establishments up to 20 meters away from the blast site were shattered.
Villanueva-Tugna recalled that in 1988, at least 20 fireworks stores in the same area were burned when one of them exploded. The explosion killed six persons and damaged millions of pesos worth of property.
The mayor called all fireworks manufacturers and dealers, particularly members of the Philippine Pyrotechnic Manufacturers and Dealers Association, for an emergency meeting following the blast.