Thousands flee as fire razes slum

April 06, 2014 - 2:38:04 am
Children scavenge in the ruins of a slum after a fire in Davao City yesterday.

DAVAO: A huge night fire sent slum dwellers running for their lives and destroyed more than a thousand homes in the Philippines’ largest southern city, officials said yesterday.

Davao city’s skyline lit up as firefighters battled for more than five hours against flames that leapt swiftly from one shanty to another in the depressed coastal neighbourhood of Isla Verde on Friday night, witnesses said.

“I’m back to zero. I don’t know how I can recover,” said grocer Norayna Serad, who lost her store and merchandise worth $2,225 that she had paid for with three years’ worth of savings from working abroad.

The catastrophic blaze was finally under control shortly after 1.00am yesterday, but by then more than 5,000 people were left homeless, local civil defence officials said. 

All that was left of the homes were charred or blackened posts, according to a photographer at the scene. 

“These were houses made of light materials. They were all razed to the ground,” Jimmy Martinez, an official of the civil defence office for the Davao region said.

Some of the houses had rested on stilts that stuck out of the coastal waters, and firefighters said they had difficulty moving through the narrow, winding alleyways between the shanties, he said. 

More than a thousand families sought refuge at a government schoolhouse that escaped the blaze.

Martinez added the slum sat on a previously vacant government lot that had been gradually settled by impoverished migrants to the city of 1.5 million people -- a common phenomenon in Philippine urban centres.             AFP