Deadly blaze at Philippine department store

Seventeen people killed as overnight fire sweeps through sleeping quarters for some of store's female employees.

    Authorities say the cause of the fire which broke out on Wednesday morning is unknown [AFP]
    Authorities say the cause of the fire which broke out on Wednesday morning is unknown [AFP]

    A fire has swept through a department store in the Philippines, killing 17 people.

    The blaze broke out early on Wednesday morning in Butuan on the southern island of Mindanao.

    At least 21 female employees of the store were said to be asleep in the building at the time.

    "21 people were asleep on the second floor when the fire struck the ground floor," Chief Inspector Mario Palarca of the provincial fire department told AFP news agency.

    Eleven bodies were recovered soon after the fire was put out, said Palarca. Investigators later found six other bodies, one of his aides said.

    Saleswoman Vicky Belez, one of the survivors, said she had only survived because she was in the bathroom when the fire broke out.

    "I was in the bathroom. Then I saw the huge flames outside so I ran out immediately. There was a lot of smoke and the flames were already huge," the 21-year-old said as doctors treated her burned arms.

    It is common in the Philippines for people in low-paid jobs to sleep at their place of work.

    The store's assistant supervisor, Berlita Ballestero, said there was only one emergency door linked to the employees' living quarters.

    "They must have had trouble getting out because there is only one fire exit," she told AFP.

    The cause of the fire is not yet known.

    SOURCE: Agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Interactive: Coding like a girl

    Interactive: Coding like a girl

    What obstacles do young women in technology have to overcome to achieve their dreams? Play this retro game to find out.

    Heron Gate mass eviction: 'We never expected this in Canada'

    Hundreds face mass eviction in Canada's capital

    About 150 homes in one of Ottawa's most diverse and affordable communities are expected to be torn down in coming months

    I remember the day … I designed the Nigerian flag

    I remember the day … I designed the Nigerian flag

    In 1959, a year before Nigeria's independence, a 23-year-old student helped colour the country's identity.