Tacloban tent city fire kills mother, 6 kids

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

TACLOBAN CITY (3rd Update) -- A mother and six of her children were killed when a fire broke out in a temporary shelter built for victims of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in this city in Leyte before dawn Wednesday.

Fire Senior Superintendent Pablo Cordeta, Eastern Visayas regional director of the Bureau of Fire Protection, earlier identified five of the children as Katlyn Ocenar, 12; Justine Ocenar, 9; Jasmine Ocenar, 5; Juvelyn Ocenar, 3; and Jacquilyn Ocenar, four months old.

Cordeta said the victims died as they were stuck in the middle of the blazing temporary shelter in Barangay Brava Costa, San Jose district.

Their mother, identified as Maria Elisa Ocenar, 39, died shortly after 8 a.m. Wednesday after she was rushed to a public hospital for treatment, said Mayor Alfred Romualdez.

The seventh fatality, John Mark Ocenar, 7, died in the hospital.

Tacloban tent city located in San Jose
A tent city in Barangay Costa Brava, San Jose, Tacloban City (File photo by Kim Yuhico/Sunnex)

The fire was caused by a kerosene lamp and quickly consumed the canvass tent just after midnight Tuesday, Tacloban City disaster management officer Derrick Anido said.

He added that the shelter was one of 40 in a "tent city" in Barangay Costa Brava, San Jose, which was wiped out by tsunami-like storm surges and fierce winds from Typhoon Yolanda in November 2013.

"It happened around 12:20 ... but it was so fast that by 12:30 it was over," Anido said, adding that everyone was sleeping when the fire broke out. "Unfortunately, after surviving (the typhoon), they were killed in a fire."

The tragedy highlights the slow progress in the resettlement of tens of thousands of survivors of Yolanda, which struck more than six months ago and is one of the world's strongest typhoons to make landfall.

Tacloban is still trying to recover from the devastation wrought by the typhoon, which barreled through the central Philippines, killing at least 6,300 people and displacing more than four million.

Last week, Mayor Romualdez said some 400 to 500 families remain in evacuation centers while 700 are living in the tent city, the temporary shelters built for families who lost their homes to the storm.

"The problem is that so many people are still living in tents and we have been saying all along that these tents are fire hazards," Anido said. "And we have been requesting (the National Government) to relocate them to safer shelters."

He said only 1,000 temporary houses made of wood with galvanized iron roofing had been built so far, while 14,000 families in the city still live in vulnerable coastal villages and need to be relocated.

Anido also said the site where the tents donated by the United Nations are located is prone to flooding.

"It is almost June and it will soon be rainy season in Tacloban, and this will again be a problem," he said. (Third Anne Peralta/AP/Sunnex)

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