Did Metro comply with regulations?
I am not subscribing to the suspicion of many, especially irresponsible statuses in social media that the recent fire that gutted Metro Gaisano in Ayala was a case of arson in order to get the insurance money.
These suspicions merely foster the same unfounded stereotype in every store that burned down in the city particularly owned by the Gaisano family.
The distrust from some quarters is instant, especially since there were already stores owned by the family, not necessarily among the Metro Gaisano chain of stores, judging from the bustling economic activity of that ill-fated store.
What concerns me more is the report that the sprinkler and fire alarm system of the store did not function during the time that the fire started on the third level of the store specifically at the storage facility of the toy section.
Though, the store and mall goers were successfully brought to safety by security guards, what happened to the state of the art fire prevention facility not only of Metro Gaisano but also of the entire Ayala mall, is unthinkable.
I hold in high regard and I always feel safe inside all the facilities owned by Ayala because I know they impose strict compliance among their tenants the safety standards set by the government in all the properties that they manage including the building occupied by Metro Gaisano.
When I first read the social media post of my good friend Nagiel Bañacia about the smoke alarm in the third level of Metro Gaisano Ayala, I was confident that it would be contained immediately considering that Metro Gaisano Ayala is a locator of Ayala Center Cebu.
When I retired for the day and woke up early the next day, I was literally stunned that the fire has already spread throughout the store and that firefighters had a hard time putting out the flames. In fact, the blaze was only put under control more than 40 hours since it started and by then it rendered the entire edifice into a virtual shell.
What made it harder for me to move on in disbelief, was that I was on the same store a day before it was razed by fire particularly on the fourth floor buying an air-conditioning set and I left when the store was about to close.
I did not have any hint that the store would burn down the next day except for a little uneasiness in going out of the parking area because of the long queue of the vehicles going out and passing through the toll booth of the first level basement parking exiting Luzon Avenue of Cebu Business Park.
Due to the long wait that I have to endure in going out of the basement parking area that night, a thought actually crossed my mind on how hard it could be to get out of the basement parking site when there is an untoward incident happening in the mall.
I hope that the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) investigators will get into the bottom of the incident and determine if indeed the store’s fire prevention system failed to activate during the time that it was most needed.
They should also check the design of the structure and see what made it hard for the firefighters to combat the flames.
If there is something that I am very much thankful about is that there was no casualty in the fire and the unmatched dedication shown by firefighters both organic and volunteers and the private citizens and companies who brought food and relief to the tired firefighters.
The havoc caused by the fire that gutted our favorite destination showed that we Cebuanos could not just watch and stand by if there is something to be done and that despite adversities we can be united.
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