Manila shanty fire leaves thousands of people homeless

Victims call for help as overnight blaze destroys homes, sweeping through poor area of Philippines capital for 12 hours.

    At least 3,000 people have been left homeless after a large fire, which lasted for more than 12 hours, hit a shanty town in the centre of the Philippines capital, local government sources have said.

    The government was unable to determine the cause of the fire late on Monday, with some of the victims accused the fire services in Manila of being slow in tackling the blaze. No casualties were reported.

    "The fire was not as big when it started but they [the firefighters] did not extinguish it right away, the fire was at one of the entrance gates but the firefighters did not do anything, they just let the fire get bigger," Nelia Dalin Papas, a victim, told the AP news agency.

    Speaking to Al Jazeera, Joel Casas said: "I can't express my grief when I look around me I can't even explain what happened. There is nothing to save.

    "We accept that this is a tragedy. We just have to start over, find a job again and rebuild everything."

    At least 80 homes are destroyed every day due to fire in Manila's poor areas where electrical wirings are often faulty and houses are made of lightweight, flammable materials.

    Johnny Yu, the director of Manila's Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office, accused the government of failing to protect the poor population of the city.

    "What's lacking is political will for government to implement housing programmes that can provide better homes for people, to move them in places that are safe, where they can find decent jobs," Yu said.

    Meanwhile, Cecilia Castillo, a victim of Monday's fire, called for urgent help.

    "We will be grateful for anything we can get, not just for my family but for all of us here," she said. "We hope that those who can, can help us."

    Social workers at one of the evacuation centres in the capital were seen handing out bowls of porridge to men, women and children sheltering in what is normally a covered gymnasium.

    "We will provide them with food, blankets, mats and everything they may need, and we are also coordinating with other NGOs, other government agencies, for the sake of the fire victims," said Nilda Del Rosario from Manila's Social Welfare Department.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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