By: Ador Vincent S. Mayol, Benjie B. Talisic, Morexette Marie B. Erram May 07,2018 - 11:15 PM

Three men guide a makeshift banca with a coffin containing their dead relative through a creek as they flee the early Monday morning fire in Barangay Ermita in Cebu City. CDN PHOTO/JUNJIE MENDOZA

  • Stove explosion triggers early morning inferno
  • 10 hurt, 2,500 homeless
  • Victims appeal for help


Ida Alolod got out of bed early morning on Monday to cook fried food which she would sell in the nearby Carbon market.

Little did she know that what was supposed to be the source of the family’s income would also lead to the death of her two young children.

While she was cooking in their kitchen, the gas stove exploded past 5 a.m.

The fire quickly engulfed their two-storey house in Sitio Kawit, Barangay Ermita, Cebu City, before it spread to over 300 other homes in the seaside urban poor village.

Alolod, her live-in partner Joel Digman, and their 13-year-old daughter managed to escape from the blaze, but they suffered second degree burns on the different parts of their bodies.

Their two other children were not able to get out of the house.

Jovielyn, 9, was still hugging her younger brother, John Mark, 2, when they were found in the debris, an hour after the fire was extinguished.

Fire Chief Insp. Noel Nelson Ababon, Cebu City fire marshal, said the children were probably still sleeping inside the room on the second floor when the fire broke out at 5:46 a.m.

“The mother was cooking food when the gas stove exploded,” said Ababon. “Unfortunately, the two kids were not able to go out of their house.”

Alolod and Joel were recuperating at the Cebu City Medical Center for their wounds and were not available for a statement on Monday.

Eight other residents were rushed to the hospital for treatment after they suffered burns on different parts of the body.

The Department of Social Welfare and Services (DSWS) in Cebu City said at least 759 families or 2,500 individuals from 302 houses were displaced by the fire that hit Sitios Kawit and Ermita Proper.

The Ermita Barangay Council immediately placed the two sitios under a state of calamity to allow them to use calamity fund to address the immediate needs of the affected families.

The Cebu City Fire Department received the alarm at 5:46 a.m.

The blaze quickly spread to nearby houses, reaching Task Force Bravo at 6:24 a.m. which meant all fire stations from Danao City in the north to Naga City in the south were asked to respond to the fire alarm.

The fire was placed under control at 8:04 a.m.

Fire Superintendent Ceasar Patrocinio, Cebu provincial fire marshal and ground commander, said firefighters had a hard time putting out the fire since the area was too congested and the roads leading to the fire scene were too narrow.

One fire victim lost her sari-sari store she opened just two weeks ago in the fire.

But Kisselyn Parohinog said they saved money for two years just to have the capital to open her small convenience store.

While everything they worked hard for vanished in a blink of an eye, Parohinog said they were still grateful since not one of her family members died in the fire.

“Sige lang og nawagtang ang among panginabuhian basta luwas lang ming tanan sa akong pamilya (I don’t mind losing our livelihood as long as our family is safe),” said the 26-year-old mother of three.

The fire victims were allowed to stay at the Ermita Sports Complex and the Ermita Elementary School in the meantime.

Barangay Ermita Captain Mark Miral, who also lost his two-storey house to the fire, appealed for help as they try to rebuild their homes. (See separate story)

Among the things needed by the displaced families were food, water, clothes, sleeping mats, blankets and construction materials.

Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña said the city government would provide P20,000 in financial assistance to every affected family.

“They need help. We will help them. That’s normal,” he told reporters.

He said he would provide burial assistance to the family of the two children and would personally donate 60 tents for the fire victims.

“Each tent can fit six to eight people. These are not small tents. At least they’re safe from inclement weather and even their personal belongings can be kept there,” he added.

In the wake of the Ermita fire, Ababon reiterated the BFP’S call for the public to be vigilant.

Although the recent blaze was caused by a gas stove explosion, 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 electrical outlets.

“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.

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.

Ababon appealed to residents to have fire extinguishers in their houses to put out or control the blaze.

“It’s really practical for each household 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 each.

Ababon called on parents to monitor their children and to keep lighters and matches away from them.

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.

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