An inferno in one of Metro Manila’s huge shanty towns has killed nine people, authorities said on Friday.
It was the third blaze to have struck the slums in as many weeks.
The Quezon City fire marshal, Senior Supt. Jesus Fernandez, identified the fatalities as Paul Gomez, 54; his son Omar Gomez, 27; daughter Glaiza Gomez, 22; Louie Gomez; Ashley Bulalacao, 2; Juralyn Bulalacao, 25; Maria Victoria del a Cruz; 27; Mary Ann dela Cruz, 40; and Elvira dela Cruz, 13. Four other residents were injured: Lino Iglopas and Dannny Dalumpines suffered second-degree burns, while Michael Villarais, and Francis Burleo had abrasions.
Authorities said illegal power connections—better known as “jumpers”—overloaded the community’s electrical system and sparked the fire.
Arson investigators said a power outage earlier hit 11th and 12th Streets.
After power was restored, a short circuit was reported at the three-story house of Elsa Jama.
Residents grabbed clothes, furniture and appliances as they fled the burning shanty town in Barangay Damayang Lagi in Quezon City shortly after midnight, survivor Arman Altoveros said.
“The fire spread so fast, everything was gone in minutes,” the 43-year-old pedicab driver said as he scavenged for for charred pots and pans on burnt rubble that used to be his wife’s small canteen.
The victims include a two-year-old girl.
Flames and thick black smoke trapped her and the eight others in their houses, said Bureau of Fire Protection spokesman Supt. Renato Marcial.
Damayang Lagi, which according to the Philippine Statistics Authority has a population of over 17,000 as of 2010, is one of the communities in Metro Manila that is often struck by fires.
The latest Damayang Lagi fire destroyed 50 houses, leaving an estimated 600 people homeless.
Many of those affected by the fire lived in rented rooms in the maze of makeshift residential structures, authorities said.
Fires routinely hit the slum, Marcial said.
In April 2010, more than a thousand lost their homes to a fire while 200 residents were also left homeless in December 2009.
Friday’s blaze brings this year’s fire-related death toll in the Philippines to 323, higher than the 228 figure for the whole of 2014, officials said.
“These slums are very high risk. At any time, there is potential for a fire,” Marcial said.
“They overload their electric outlets with no regard for their safety. They also steal electricity, damaging power lines,” he added.
Altoveros vowed to rebuild the two-story wood and tin shack he used to share with his wife and two teenaged children.
“I don’t know how long we’ll be sleeping on the street, but we have no choice but to start again,” he said.
Fires are common hazards in sprawling Quezon City, where millions live in hovels made from scrap wood and cardboard and fire safety regulations are rarely imposed.
Last week, 5,000 people were left homeless after a huge blaze gutted 500 tin-roofed houses in Quiapo, Manila.
It also forced temporary evacuation of 500 prisoners at the nearby Manila City Jail.
In late November, about 800 homes went up in smoke in another Manila shanty town.
In May, 72 died when a fire tore through a footwear factory in Valenzuela City, also in Metro Manila. Survivors blamed the disaster on barred windows.