Looters mobbed a deadly slum fire in Manila on Tuesday, pulling roofing sheets and electric wire from singed homes as firemen scrambled to contain the blaze that killed a teenager.
Riot police surrounded the White Rock Island shantytown at Manila’s port area after being summoned by firemen who struggled to reach burning homes accessible only through narrow alleys that were swarmed by residents as well as scavengers.
About 100 people, most of them men, engaged in tugs of war over electricity cables that had been pulled from still burning shanties.
They also fought over metal roofing sheets that were bent out of shape by the intense flame, which they hauled off using improvised wooden carts.
“These are informal settlers trying to make a buck out of salvaged materials,” Aljeph Lorenzo, one of dozens of firemen who responded to the fire alarm, said.
“This happens all the time whenever a slum is struck by fire. They interfere with our work so we had to ask for police assistance.”
The looting happened even as firefighters tried but failed to rescue a 16-year-old boy who had been trapped inside a house.
At one point the wall of a burnt shanty crumbled, narrowly missing some looters.
Some firemen were seen aiming their powerful water hoses at the looters, but the looting continued undeterred until the police arrived.
Manila arson investigator Armando Maldillo said firemen later retrieved a burnt-out cadaver, believed to be the body of the trapped boy.
Thirty houses were destroyed in the hour-long blaze.