Death toll from Philippine mall blaze rises to 38

PHOTO: AFP

Manila - The death toll from a fire that ravaged a shopping mall in the southern Philippines has risen to 38 after the body of a mall safety officer was discovered, the city mayor said Wednesday.

The officer died trying to rescue those trapped in the blaze at the four-storey NCCC mall in Davao City on Saturday, the operators said.

Also killed were 37 employees of a 24-hour call centre for US-based market research firm SSI on the top floor of the building.

Mayor Sara Duterte, the daughter of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, said one SSI employee is counted among the dead even though her body has not yet been recovered.

Over 30 killed in Philippine shopping mall fire

  • Firemen found the bodies of "around" 36 people after a deadly blaze at a shopping mall in the southern Philippines, a fire official said as the government launched a criminal investigation.
  • The discovery raised to 37 the confirmed death toll from the NCCC shopping mall fire in the city of Davao on Mindanao island.
  • The blaze began on Saturday, trapping call centre workers of US-based market research firm SSI, which announced on its website late Sunday that 37 of its 500 employees at the top-floor office had been "lost" in the fire.
  • Philippine authorities ordered a criminal investigation Monday as allegations surfaced of locked or non-existent fire exits at the building, which its administrators denied.
  • Mall operators denied the claims.
  • Davao's fire marshal described the shopping mall on Sunday as "an enclosed space with no ventilation", though the authorities said they had yet to determine the cause of the blaze.
  • Some relatives of those missing earlier criticised rescuers for what they felt was the slow pace of recovery efforts.
  • SSI said it has arranged for counselling for its employees and will support funeral arrangements and set up a fund for the bereaved.

President Duterte, who hails from Davao City, has vowed to get to the truth of the blaze. Labour groups charged that the high death toll was a sign safety rules were not met, a claim denied by the mall operators.

NCCC mall spokeswoman Thea Padua said in a statement on Wednesday that "we categorically deny the allegations that we do not have enough fire exits, extinguishers, sprinklers and designated fire escapes. We have been fully compliant with the labour standards."

The cause of the blaze has still not been determined. The justice and labour departments and Davao's fire-fighting bureau have ordered separate investigations.

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