Flames kill 1, gut 30 houses

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Monday, April 21, 2014

CEBU - A fire swept through a crowded neighborhood and lasted for four hours in Barangay Kamputhaw, Cebu City during Easter Sunday, killing an elderly man while wounding three others.

Raymond Belda, an 89-year-old United States citizen, died after he was trapped when the blaze erupted, allegedly inside his home, in Sitio Riverside, Purok 3.

More than 30 houses were destroyed by the fire, leaving 59 families or 224 individuals homeless, officials from the city fire department and social welfare office said.

The challenge of raising again
CEBU. Passersby view the ruins of a fi re that hit Barangay Kamputhaw in Cebu City last Sunday night, just hours after
Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma encouraged the faithful to draw strength from Christ’s resurrection in rising from their own challenges. (Arni Aclao of Sun.Star Cebu)


Village officials declared the area under a state of calamity yesterday, during an emergency session, to speed up aid to the survivors.

They will also coordinate with Cebu City Government if it’s feasible to reblock the community to widen its passages.

The narrow road leading to the fire scene was pointed out by SFO2 Daniel Relatado Jr., fire investigator of the Cebu City Fire Department, as the main reason they weren’t able to immediately enter the area.

Firefighters received the call for help at 10:09 p.m. and had the fire under control, meaning it could no longer spread, at 11:04 p.m.

The fire alarm was elevated to Task Force Alpha, which summoned all neighboring cities and towns to help, after the flames quickly spread through houses made of light materials.

Relatado, when interviewed by Sun.Star Cebu, said they had to connect 10 to 12 hoses, measuring 50 feet each, to reach the area.

4-hour fight

Sitio Riverside, Purok 3 is located on a slope and beside a river at the back of the University of Philippines Cebu.

After nearly four hours of firefighting, the flames were put out at 2:06 a.m. By then, however, the fire had damaged at least P300,000 worth of properties.

The wounded residents were identified as Jericho Go, 20; Charlie Santillas, 40; and Ben John Still Uy, 25. They suffered lacerations and burns.

A certain Boy Veloso, who is in his 60s, also suffered from a heart attack and had to be rushed to the Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC).

Electrical misuse is being considered by firefighters as a likely cause of the fire.

“Nakadungog man sila ug paka-paka. Posible ang kuryente ‘to (The people heard some crackling noises, possibly from electrical connections),” Relatado said.

Belda’s body was found on the ground after his two-storey house was destroyed. Some residents had tried to help Belda get out, but the fire quickly engulfed his house.

His body was brought to St. Peter’s Funeral Homes.

Lived alone

His sister-in-law Marcelina, 75, told Sun.Star Cebu that Belda was a US citizen and had lived with his family there. He came back to the Philippines and lived here alone.

Belda, she added, used to work as a gardener in the US Consular Office in Cebu.

Because he had a hard time walking, Belda would ask his grandchildren and neighbor to buy food for him. 

One of his grandchildren, 21-year-old Queenie Maquiling, recalled buying his favorite meals: burgers, pizza and wheat bread.

“Mao gyud to iyang pirmi kan-on (That’s what he often ate),” she said.

Kamputhaw Councilman Raymond Garcia, in a separate interview, said the affected residents will be given financial assistance and housing materials. They declared the village under a state of calamity on Monday. (Disclosure: Atty. Garcia heads the legal department of Sun.Star Publishing Inc.)

Garcia said they will also coordinate with Cebu City’s Division for the Welfare of the Urban Poor (DWUP) if Sitio Riverside should be reblocked. Some of the lots in the sitio are privately owned.

Surviving again

The displaced families are temporarily housed in the barangay sports complex, where they will be given packed meals for three days.

One of the affected residents, 34-year-old Edna Magno, said her family has been through a series of unfortunate events.

Last November 8, their house in Leyte was destroyed by super typhoon Yolanda. They relocated to Cebu last January to start anew. Four months later, everything they had gathered turned to ashes. They were not able to save anything when the fire broke out last Sunday.

“Maayo pa ‘to ang bagyo kay mabasa ra man imong mga butang. Pero sa sunog, mahurot gyud tanan (During the storm, we managed to save some things that had been drenched. But the fire took everything away),” Magno said.

City Hall’s Department of Social Welfare and Services (DSWS) has started distributing food packs and other basic needs to the fire survivors.


DSWS Chief Ester Concha said that as part of the City’s standard procedure, City Hall will shoulder the meals of the families for three days.

After three days, relief goods will also be given to them so they can cook their own food.

Disaster kits, which include sleeping mats, blankets and kitchen utensils, will also be distributed today.

Personnel from DSWS validated yesterday the initial reports to come up with a final list of affected families, to whom City Hall will give cash and housing assistance.

Survivors whose houses were destroyed by the fire will get P10,000 in financial assistance each, while families with damaged houses—including those who rented or shared houses—will get a smaller amount, Concha said.

City Hall is also expected to distribute more housing materials next week.

“As much as we want to distribute immediately the housing materials, we are also relying on the stocks of our supplier since there was a huge demand from the previous fires and calamities,” Concha told Sun.Star Cebu. (Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 22, 2014.

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