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BREAKING NEWS: Early morning fire kills 17 in Butuan City
By Robert E. Roperos
posted 8-May-2012  ·  
A fire which allegedly started on the third floor of a three-storey building killed 17 sales ladies of a jeans store.

According to reports, the fire started at around 3:45 a.m. where the three-storey building where establishments such as NOVO Jeans Store, Smart Wireless, Saint Peter's Office, Ayala Life Insurance, Digi-Life cell phone store, Western Union, and a badminton court were housed.

Junel Albuelo, store guard on duty, said stay-in personnel of NOVO store were staying on the third floor where the fire allegedly started. He said he heard an explosion coming from the store after which he observed thick smoke seeping under the door.He also said the store’s main gate had two padlocks: from within and outside. Albuelo also confirmed that 21 personnel were staying inside the establishment last night.

Reports also revealed that of the 21 all-female stay-in personnel and sales ladies of NOVO store, three survived the incident; they jumped to the second floor of the building as the fire raged.

In an interview, the survivors said they were trapped in the building when the fire broke out. Somehow, they managed to break out, jump to the second floor, then brought to a nearby hospital.

Meanwhile, Vice-Mayor Lawrence Lemuel Fortun said concerned officials and personnel from the city government and other national government agencies were already instructed to extend immediate assistance to the survivors confined in a hospital.

The official also said because of the incident, the street fronting the building had been closed until such time the City Engineering Office has cleared the debris and deemed the area safe for passers by.

As of press time, officials of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) here confirmed 17 dead bodies had already been recovered and all are beyond recognition. Elements of the Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO), on the other hand, had retrieved the cadavers, and started the process of identification of the bodies.

Initial reports from the BFP reveal that the cost of damages is estimated at around P30 million. (RER - PIA 13, Caraga)
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