TRAGEDY IN DULJO

By: Nestle L. Semilla December 02,2016 - 10:20 PM
razed to the ground. Over 500 houses are now gone, leaving nearly 3,000 people homeless, following a seven-hour fire that hit this erstwhile densely populated community in Barangay Duljo Fatima, Cebu City, starting at 11:14 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, until past 6 a.m. the next day. (CDN DRONE PHOTO/TONEE DESPOJO).

razed to the ground. Over 500 houses are now gone, leaving nearly 3,000 people homeless, following a seven-hour fire that hit this erstwhile densely populated community in Barangay Duljo Fatima, Cebu City, starting at 11:14 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, until past 6 a.m. the next day. (CDN DRONE PHOTO/TONEE DESPOJO).

What was supposed to be the first day of the happiest month of the year turned into a tragedy as close to 3,000 people were left homeless, scrambling to make sense of how they will get through the trying days ahead.

On the evening of December 1, just 24 days before Christmas, a fire struck Barangay Duljo Fatima, displacing hundreds of families in what City Hall described to be the biggest fire to hit Cebu City this year.

Around 531 houses were lost in the fire that hit the densely populated area shortly before midnight of Thursday.

Based on the data provided by the Cebu City Department of Social Welfare and Services (DSWS), the seven-hour blaze, which began at 11:14 p.m. on Thursday and lasted until 6:25 a.m. on Friday, displaced 602 families or 2,722 individuals.

Two firefighters suffered from minor burns while seven residents were reported injured by broken glass.

The figures, according to DSWS, were subject to further validation and may still change in the coming days.

Anticipating Christmas

Among the victims were the members of the Timtim family in Sitio Continental who were looking forward to a festive Christmas celebration this year.

Andres Timtim, 57, said they were supposed to sell their eight hogs to make money available for Christmas, but the fire not only burned their home but roasted all of their pigs as well.

“Ambot asa mi mangita ani. Nangahurot man g’yud among gipangpundar pati balay ug kahayupan (I don’t know where we’d get our income now. All our investments, from our house to our domestic animals, were all gone),” Timtim said.

Aside from finding another source of income, Timtim said he also has to look for a decent shelter for the family especially since Christmas is coming.

“Maayo unta ang siyudad mohatag og housing materials. Bisan pinaskuhan lang nila gud. Mas nindot kung kana ilahang ihatag (I hope the city government will give us housing materials. As their Christmas gifts for us fire victims, we hope they will give us housing materials instead),” Timtim said.

Timtim said that he still worries that his family might not able to rebuild their house if the city government decides to reblock the area. Timtim and his family had lived in Duljo Fatima for 25 years.

Tolomeo Aparre, 46, was clutching the keys of his tricycle when Cebu Daily News interviewed him, hours after the fire incident.
Aparre told CDN that he was asleep when the fire broke out, six houses away from his home.

As the fire quickly spread, Aparre managed to save only his tricycle.

“Nindot kaayo og pinaskuhan, sunog man gyud. Pero wala na ta mahimo nahitabo naman na (What a nice Christmas gift, it just had to be a fire. But we can’t do anything anymore; it already happened),” Aparre wryly said.

 THE SEARCH. Young fire victims try to look for belongings that they can still salvage from their burned down houses in  Barangay Duljo Fatima. (CDN PHOTO/JUNJIE MENDOZA)

THE SEARCH. Young fire victims try to look for belongings that they can still salvage from their burned down houses in Barangay Duljo Fatima. (CDN PHOTO/JUNJIE MENDOZA)

Even though they were only renting the house they were living in for 20 years, Aparre said that he had spent some money renovating the structure.

As a renter, Aparre was well aware that once the area would be reblocked, only house owners would be able to rebuild their houses.

“Asa kaha mi puniton ani ron. Kung makatukod mi og balik mas maayo pero dawat naman namo ang kamatuoran nga naa g’yud dili na makabalik dinha (We don’t know where to go now. If we will be able to rebuild our house, it will be good, but we know better and have accepted that some of us will not be able to rebuild our houses in the area),” Aparre said.

The fire victims were evacuated to the nearby San Nicolas Elementary School and the Duljo Fatima Sports Complex.

Fire out

The fire that gobbled the houses in six sitios (subvillages) was believed to have been caused by an unattended candle in the house of Cherryle Sarmellon in Sitio Bohol Village.

From Bohol Village, the fire quickly spread to Sitios Saduco, Continental, Chicago and Plastikan before it was put under control around 1:10 a.m. Friday, said SFO1 Edwin Handayan of the Cebu City Fire Department.

Still, the fire, while controlled, was not completely put out until past sunrise.

Handayan said they received the alarm at 11:14 p.m. Thursday and raised it to Task Force Alpha at 11:46 p.m. The fire was put out seven hours later at 6:25 a.m yesterday.

Handayan said firefighters were having difficulty putting out the fire because of the very narrow streets and alleys that led to or had crisscrossed the area.

He said the fire site is in the interior part of the barangay, which was very difficult to penetrate because the alleys only allowed one person at a time.

“Naa sad tay firetrucks nga nahutdan og tubig. Tungod sa kahoot sa dalan na-stuck na sila sa tunga wala na makakuha balik (There are firetrucks which ran out of water and can’t fetch more because they got stuck in the middle due to the very narrow streets),” he added.

Fire victims eat the packed breakfast meal  distributed by the Cebu City Government (CDN PHOTO/JUNJIE MENDOZA).

Fire victims eat the packed breakfast meal distributed by the Cebu City Government (CDN PHOTO/JUNJIE MENDOZA).

He said the fire site was more or less 200 meters away from the main road where the firetrucks were parked, and they needed to connect the hoses for them to able to reach the scene.

Handayan said they also had a problem in getting more water since the fire hydrants were located about a kilometer away from the fire scene.

City and barangay aid

Duljo Fatima Barangay Captain Elmer Abella said they had placed the six subvillages under a state of calamity to allow the barangay to use P537,000 of its calamity fund to help the fire victims.

Abella said the incident was the third in their barangay this year. Two other fires struck Duljo Fatima in January and March this year, which ate up more than 40 houses.

Food packs were distributed yesterday to the fire victims by DSWS. The food packs are expected to last for three days.

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TAGS: Cebu, Cebu City, Chicago, Christmas, City hall, Continental, December, Department of Social Welfare and Services, DSWS, Duljo-Fatima, family, fire, fire victim, food, hours, individual, month, plastikan, Saduco, seven, seven hours
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