TWO young children, aged three and one, perished in a two-hour fire that razed 353 houses in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu, late Friday afternoon.
Senior Fire Officer 2 Climaco Salisid of the Lapu-Lapu City Fire Department said the charred remains of the siblings – Yoko Han, 3, and Kent Cyril,1 – were beyond recognition but their mother Jennifer Cañedo and daughter Princess, 9, were able to identify them 16 hours after the fire.
Fire investigators said the fire broke out at the house of Jennifer’s mother, Lilia, in Sitio New Paradise of Barangay Pajo about 300 meters away from the main road.
The fire spread fast to the houses of informal settlers near the sea.
Witnesses said some residents jumped into the sea to save themselves from the raging fire.
Salisid said that before the incident, five children – Princess, Yoko Han, Kent Cyril, their neighbor James and one unidentified child – were playing with matches on the third floor of the three-story house of Lilia.
Jennifer was on the ground floor of the house made from light materials and, when the fire broke out, she tried to rescue Yoko Han and Kent but the blaze was already huge.
Firefighters said they had a hard time entering the fire scene because of the narrow alleys.
Salisid said the fire was raised to general alarm and most firefighters in Cebu responded, including the Danao City Fire Station in northern Cebu and Talisay City Fire Station in southern Cebu.
The Lapu-Lapu City Fire Department received the fire alarm at 5:10 p.m. and the fire was placed under control at 7:04 p.m.
Estimated damage was P550,000.
Junard Chan, village chairman of Barangay Pajo, said affected residents are taking temporary shelter in Pajo gym and Pajo Elementary School.
He added that most of the fire victims have lived in Sitio New Paradise for more than 30 years and about 167 of them are just renting houses in the area.
About 60 households are indigents and beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program of the government.
Chan said the ownership of the land where the houses are situated is under court litigation.
Supt. Ronaldo Orbeta, deputy director of the Bureau of Fire Protection in Central Visayas, said in an interview with The Manila Times that the fire in Barangay Pajo is the biggest one in Cebu in the first quarter of 2018.
On January 14, about 300 houses in Barangay Pasil, Cebu City went up in smoke.
Meanwhile, more than two hours later, another fire alarm at about 7:45 p.m. was received and seven houses were affected by the blaze that started at the house of Jennilyn Dungog in Purok Balanghoy, Barangay Gun-ob, also in Lapu-Lapu City.
Fire Officer 3 Ruffred Amores said the fire was placed under control at 7:53 p.m. with four houses destroyed and three damaged.
Estimated damage was about P50,000.
Investigation showed that the fire was caused by a loose electrical connection.