No indication yet bomb caused deadly Serendra blast

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Saturday, June 1, 2013

MANILA (Updated 4:44 p.m.) — Officials said Saturday they still do not know what caused a powerful explosion that ripped through an upscale apartment complex in the Taguig City, killing three people in a van that was hit by debris.

Friday night's blast blew out the walls of an apartment on the fifth floor, sending a slab of concrete flying onto the street below and smashing into a passing delivery van. It's driver and two of his crew were crushed to death.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II identified the fatalities as Salvador Natividad, Marlon Bandola and Jeffrey Umali. The three were passengers of a delivery truck of appliance store Abenson.

Five others, including an American and a nine-year-old, were injured, Roxas said.

Taguig City Mayor Lani Cayetano said the City Government and Ayala Land will give the needed assistance to the victims' families.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council earlier reported that three others had been killed in the building but later said that was wrong. Major Reynaldo Balido, spokesman for the agency, said the only fatalities were those in the van, adding that local civil defense officers mistakenly reported the deaths in the building.

View Two Serendra, Taguig City Blast in a larger map

The powerful explosion occurred around 8:30 p.m. Friday at Unit 501 of Two Serendra, situated in Bonifacio Global City, a busy shopping and residential area frequented by Manila's upper class and expatriate community in Taguig City.

Roxas said one of the five injured was Unit 501 tenant, Angelito San Juan. San Juan was on his way out of the unit when the blast occurred.

San Juan who sustained burn injuries in the back is now in stable condition but remains in the Intensive Care Unit of St. Luke's Medical Center Global City in Taguig City.

Tony Aquino, Ayala Land, Inc. president, also confirmed reports that San Juan was scheduled to stay in Unit 501 from May 31 until June 9.

Aside from Unit 501, officials are also closely monitoring Unit 506, where a used fire extinguisher was found, and Unit 306 where burn marks were also traced.

Authorities are investigating burn and fragmentation patterns, studying structural and developer's plans of the building, as well as the trajectory of the debris after the blast.

Roxas told reporters Saturday that three separate teams of bomb sniffing dogs from the police and the army, which combed the wrecked apartment and the debris, did not find any indication of explosives.

"We are not yet saying that this was not caused by a bomb, but this is factual — these three teams did not register any fumes or residue of ordinary bombs," he said.

"Right now, we still do not know what caused the explosion," he added. "We are not ruling out anything."

Authorities were initially looking into a gas supply issue, and residents were kept out of other buildings as officials checked the supply maintenance.

Roxas urged the public to refrain from speculating if the blast was linked to recent travel advisories issued by the United States, British, Canadian and Australian governments for the restive southern Philippines, where they cited a risk of kidnappings and terrorist activities.

Muslim militants have targeted the Philippine capital in the past, but most attacks have been confined to the southern region, where minority Muslims has fought for self-rule for decades. (AP/Kathrina Alvarez/Glaiza Jarloc/Sunnex)

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