As heavy rain poured over Cebu and nearby islands, some 28 families or over 80 individuals lost their homes in a fire that gutted at least eight houses in Barangay Duljo-Fatima, Cebu City, on Tuesday morning.
It was the third major blaze in the city in a span of 12 days.
Chief Insp. Nelson Ababon, Cebu City fire marshal, said they were nonetheless happy that no one was hurt and that the fire was quickly controlled by firemen.
“The fire took place near a street with a wide space so we did not have any difficulty in penetrating the area,” he said in an interview.
The Cebu City Fire Department received the fire alarm at 8:19 a.m. The blaze was subsequently placed under control at 8:43 a.m., and was completely put out an hour later.
Based on the investigation, the fire started at an abandoned house owned by Vidal Carillo.
Fire investigators were still determining what triggered the fire that resulted to an estimated damage at P200,000.
Ababon said they will invite Carillo to their office to shed light about what happened.
‘Red’ rainfall warning
As this develops, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) in the Visayas issued a “red” rainfall warning alert due to torrential rains whipped up by a low pressure area near Surigao del Sur.
Alice Canasa, weather specialist of Pagasa-Mactan, said a red rainfall warning means the rainfall amount is more than 30 millimeters per hour, which could trigger flooding and landslides in Metro Cebu and on Camotes Island.
She said the weather condition may improve on Wednesday as the low pressure slowly dissipates.
“But we still expect light to moderate rainfalls in the coming days, not only because January is usually rainy, but also because of an Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) in Mindanao,” Canasa said.
But a later weather bulletin from Pagasa said that even as the LPA off Surigao del Sur has dissipated, a new LPA was spotted 2,320 kilometers east of Mindanao.
The weather disturbance is not likely to intensify into a tropical cyclone but the trough of the LPA will bring cloudy skies with scattered rains and thunderstorms over Caraga, Visayas, provinces of Masbate, Romblon, Mindoro, Palawan and the rest of Mindanao.
Canasa advised the people to always bring umbrellas whenever they go out of their houses.
Canasa also admonished those living near the rivers, seas and the mountains to prepare for possible flash floods or landslides.
Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CCDRRMO) chief Nagiel Bañacia echoed the warning and asked school officials to be on guard.
“All public schools from elementary to high schools are advised to take precautionary measures against imminent floods and landslides. Activate your school disaster risk reduction and management plans and responders to guide the children in going home,” he said.
Aside from floods and landslides, the public was also reminded to get rid of “octopus” connections and unattended lamps or candles to avoid fire, which had so far affected over 700 families or over 3,000 individuals in Cebu City for the month of January alone.
Senior Fire Officer 1 Dina Mariquit, operating officer of the Cebu City Fire Department, said they recorded at least seven fire incidents in Cebu City since January 1.
Of these, three were considered major fires considering the extent of the damage. These were the fire incidents at Metro Ayala last January 5, Pasil (January 14) and Duljo-Fatima (January 16).
No casualties were recorded in these incidents.
“We’re just fortunate here in Cebu that at least no one died,” Ababon said.
Although most of the recent blazes are still under investigation, Ababon said electrical misuse, faulty electrical wiring, and unattended open flame like lighted candles are among the top causes of fire in previous years.
He advised residents and owners of commercial establishments to be extra careful, and to avoid overloading of electrical outlets by using too many extension wires, resulting in “octopus connections.”
“The electrical wirings in many houses here are not capable of dealing with too many appliances. And so they really have to avoid octopus connections,” said Ababon in an interview on Tuesday.
An octopus electrical connection involves plugging several devices to a wall socket. This also refers to an extension cord with multiple outlets which may cause overheating or an electrical overload.
Last Sunday, a fire burned over 300 houses and displaced 711 families or at least 3,570 individuals in Barangay Pasil.
Investigators are looking into the possibility that the fire was caused by children who reportedly played with matches.
Fire safety requirements
As part of their campaigns to get rid of fire, he said they will visit villages in the city to remind residents to be careful and to make sure their electric connections are safe.
The Cebu City fire marshal also instructed his personnel to intensify fire safety inspections in establishments to make sure owners comply with the requirements to get rid of fire.
“We’re somehow busy for the Sinulog activities now, but come February, we will implement full-blown inspections,” Ababon said.
Owners of establishments who fail to comply with the fire safety requirements will be given the chance to correct their mistakes and to follow the standards set by the BFP.
“If they won’t heed our call, then their business permits will be canceled,” he said.
As to houses, Ababon appealed to residents to have fire extinguishers as much as possible to put out or control the blaze.
“It’s really practical for each households to have a fire extinguisher although we also could not force people to get one,” he said.
A fire extinguisher costs at least P2,000.
Ababon called on parents to monitor their children and to keep lighters or matches out of the latter’s reach.
Lamps and candles, he said, should also be placed in areas where there are no materials that can easily catch fire.
“When sleeping, I also urge households to turn off their appliances. And when I say turn off, what I mean is to actually pull the plug,” he said.
“We really should be careful in everything so that we prevent fires from breaking out,” he added.