A Filipino family of four were reportedly among the over 200 people injured in a fire that broke out at a residential complex housing employees of oil giant Saudi Aramco in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia, on Sunday, according to sources of The Manila Times.
At least 12 people were killed when a fire broke out in the basement of a tower, the kingdom’s civil defense said on Twitter.
It added that several of the injured were in “critical condition” and that the casualties were from “various nationalities,” without giving details.
Saudi Arabia’s civil defense agency said among those killed were three Canadians of Asian origin, a Pakistani and a Nigerian woman.
The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs also on Monday said it is yet to receive information on whether there were Filipinos caught in the fire.
“Our embassy in Riyadh has so far not received report of any Filipino injured or killed in the Aramco fire,” DFA spokesman Charles Jose told reporters.
Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil company in terms of crude production and exports, released a statement confirming the fire at the residential complex, saying the incident was being investigated.
The company says it employs more than 61,000 workers worldwide from 77 countries. Foreigners represent around 33 percent of the kingdom’s population of 30.8 million.
According to a 2006 online news report, Aramco employs more than 3,000 Filipinos.
“Filipino workers man the rigs in exploration and producing, Filipino doctors and nurses care for company employees and their dependents at company medical facilities, and they also take on a wide range of technical and professional tasks,” a report of the Saudi-based Arab News said.
But a former Manila journalist now working in Saudi Arabia told The Manila Times that the gutted facility housed “regular workers.”
“Most of the Filipino workers at Aramco are supplemental workers.
“I asked my boss who is from Aramco and he said the nationalities are not known yet. The residential area that was gutted is occupied by regular employees of Aramco,” he said.
Another Saudi-based journalist–quoting his sources from Aramco–said a Filipino family of four, including two children, had to jump from the fourth floor of a burning building.
“They threw out a mattress before jumping,” he told this paper.
His source purportedly told him that the Filipino man and his two children have been discharged from the hospital where they were brought while his wife, who is pregnant, remains under observation.
The names of the journalists had to be withheld as their identification might negatively affect their employment.
Photographs published on the Saudi civil defense website showed plumes of black smoke rising from the windows of one of the buildings.
Authorities said residents of nearby towers were evacuated as helicopters took part in firefighting operations.
Footage posted online showed helicopters hovering over the site of the blaze. Other images showed firefighters using ladders to access the building.
Firefighting teams “are combing all towers to ensure there are no people” trapped inside, said the civil defense.
“The incident is currently under control and cooling operations are ongoing,” it said in another tweet later in the afternoon.