TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines - A mother and her six children in the district of San Jose here cheated death during the onslaught of the strongest typhoon to hit land only to die six months later in a fire that gobbled up the tent that had been their temporary home since "Yolanda."
Fire investigators said a kerosene lamp left unattended inside the tent triggered the fire on Wednesday that killed Maria Eliza Ocenar, 38, and her children Kathleen, 11; Justine, 10; Jovilyn, 6; Jazmine, 3 and a 3-month-old baby girl.
Another son, John Mark, 6, died at 1:57 p.m. while confined at Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center (EVRMC) in Tacloban. The boy died of cardiac arrest due to the severe burns in his body, said Mayor Alfred Romualdez.
"The fire was immediately put out but the fire was quick to spread," Fire Senior Superintendent Pablo Cordeta, Eastern Visayas regional director of the Bureau of Fire Protection, said in an interview with Radio Inquirer 990 AM.
"Definitely, it was a shocking incident. The family survived Yolanda only to die in a fire. It's really, really, sad,"said FO1 Anthony Alvin Duran of the Tacloban City Fire Department.
The Ocenars are among the 126 families or 508 persons living in tents in Costa Brava, a coastal village in San Jose District, which had one of the highest number of casualties during the super typhoon last November. More than 1,000 people died in San Jose with hundreds more missing.
The tents measuring 14 by 18 feet were donated by the United Nations.
The families used kerosene lamps or solar panels at night because they do not have power connections.
Barangay (village) Councilor William Placa said he hoped that what happened to the Ocenars would "open the eyes" of officials to hasten the construction of permanent houses.
"This shocking incident could have been avoided if only the government hastened its action to transfer the victims to permanent relocation sites. We are prohibited from having our own power connection because we live inside a danger zone,"Placa said.
Investigation showed that Eliza and her children were sleeping inside the tent at Barangay Costa Brava when fire broke out at 12:10 a.m. on Wednesday.