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  Home > Philippines

NBI Ordered To Probe Davao City Mall Fire


 December 26th, 2017  |  10:36 AM  |   1167 views



The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has been directed to investigate the mall fire in Davao City, where 37 people are feared to have perished, to determine if someone is at fault and should be held criminally liable.


Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II ordered the investigation as one body from the burning shopping mall was retrieved, with chances of survival for the 36 other trapped people now considered “zero.”


Davao City Mayor Sara DuterteCarpio said firefighters told distraught relatives of the 36 trapped employees of a business outsourcing company at the top floor of the NCCC Mall that nobody could survive the extreme heat and thick black smoke.


“They were told that the chances of survival are zero,” she said, adding that one of those trapped may be a Chinese or a South Korean, based on the name.


US-based market research company Survey Sampling International (SSI)confirmed on its website late Sunday that 37 of its 500 employees were “lost” from its Davao unit, which leased the four-story building’s top floor.


‘Terrible tragedy’


“This terrible tragedy has left us with heavy hearts. We offer our condolences and prayers to the families and loved ones of the victims,” chief executive Gary Laben said in the statement.


The company said it has arranged for counselling for its employees, and will support funeral arrangements and set up a fund to assist the bereaved.


The families of the victims were taken to a holding room provided by the city government at the 3rd floor of the JICA building at the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC).


President Duterte visited the worried families Sunday and broke into tears when he told them that there were “zero chances” of survival for those who got trapped in the inferno.


The President was accompanied by his two children – Mayor Sara and Vice Mayor Paolo – as well as Special Assistant to the President (SAP) Christopher “Bong” Go.


Who’s at fault?


“The loss of lives and the resulting damage caused underscore the need to determine if someone is at fault and should be held criminally liable,” said Aguirre in a statement issued on Christmas Day.


“It is for this reason that I have ordered the NBI last night to conduct a probe to determine the criminal culpability of those responsible,” said Aguirre who expressed his condolences to the families of the victims.


Aguirre has already instructed Justice Undersecretary RaymundMecate, who is in charge of the NBI, to communicate with NBI Director Dante Gierran regarding the probe.


“We want the NBI to be involved with its own probe. Their findings will enable us to make those responsible fully accountable before our courts via the criminal cases that will be filed,” he said.


The DOJ secretary hopes “by punishing those responsible, we can set an example to others so that, hopefully, there will be no repetition of these tragedies.”


The mall’s marketing manager, Janna Abdullah Mutalib, said the fire started Saturday morning at the third floor where clothes, appliances and furniture are sold, after a storm hit Davao and flooded parts of the city.


The city’s fire marshal had described the shopping mall as “an enclosed space with no ventilation,” but the cause of the fire remains unknown.


The building’s administrators on Sunday denied allegations from survivors that there were inadequate emergency fire exits and that some of them were locked.


“There is no truth to that allegation. In fact as per accounts of those who got out, they were able get out thru the fire exit,”Thea Padua, the mall’s public relations officer, told AFP by text message.


Slow recovery


Some relatives of those missing criticized rescuers for what they felt was the slow pace of recovery efforts.


“They seem so relaxed,” said Jolita Basalan, weeping as she waited for news of her missing 29-year-old son Jonas who worked at the call center.


“They are not pained because they don’t have a child there. They told us to come here but no one is moving,” she told AFP.


Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III called for an investigation on the fire.


“I want to know why they were trapped, and if there is anything we could have done to avoid this,” Pimentel said in a statement.


Likewise, business process outsourcing (BPO) workers called for swift and thorough investigation on the mall fire.


The BPO Industry Employees’ Network (BIEN) issued the appeal after getting reports of occupational safety and health standards (OSHS) violations within NCCC mall.


“We demand immediate, independent and thorough (probe) of the fire that led to the tragic death of scores of individuals,” BIEN said in a statement. (With reports from AP, Vanne P. Terrazola, and Samuel P. Medenilla)




by Jeffrey G. Damicog and AFP


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