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the world as I see it

Tragedy

Posted by BCS on September 23, 2008

I woke up at probably around six in the morning and went about my morning routine to get myself ready for another day at the office. I must have slept very soundly the previous night that I was left totally unaware of what had been happening around me during the early hours of that day.

All I can remember is that as I was preparing myself to go to work, my father informed me that there was a fire going on near the church (Binondo Church) which was just a block away from where we lived.

Thinking of a possible photo-op, I took my camera with me, just in case.

The day was April 20, 2005.

Upon seeing the huge crowd of people gathered on the sidewalks, I sensed that something was still going on. So, I pulled my camera out from my bag, weaved my way through the crowd, and took several pictures of the burning building each time I would find a clearing.

Through it all, I never imagined how severe and tragic it was for the building’s occupants until I saw it on the evening news later that day.

Eliong Commercial building fire (April 19, 2005)

Eliong Commercial building fire (April 19, 2005)

Eliong Commercial building fire (April 19, 2005)

Eliong Commercial building fire (April 19, 2005)

Note: I tried looking for news articles about this in Philippine Daily Inquirer’s archives on the web, but somehow the date selection thingie there wouldn’t work. I also tried searching on Google from which I also found nothing (I guess I was right about the possibility of things going missing from the web). I did find something on Yahoo though… from the Co Kim Eh Rescue Foundation’s website to be more specific:

5 dead, 4 missing in Binondo fire
by Margaux Ortiz, Jean Bermudez
Phil. Daily Inquirer, Apr. 20, 2005

WHEN firemen managed to bring him to safety, away from the family’s burning building in Binondo, Manila, 25-year-old Elizalde Chua decided to go back and rescue his parents and siblings trapped inside.

He never made it back.

Elizalde’s body was the first to be recovered after a fire hit the Eliong Commercial building at No. 589 Quintin Paredes St. at 2:37 a.m. The fire was declared under control at 1:46 pm, almost 12 hours after it started.

Elizalde’s brother Edralin, 28, and Erika, 16, were recovered hours later by firemen at the third floor of the four-storey building.

FO1 Lords Hernandez of the Manila Fire Department said the body of an unidentified female helper was found on the second floor. Another body was discovered charred beyond recognition.

Fire officials said Elizalde’s parents, Ely, 58, and Tessie, 52, along with two other helpers, were still missing.

Two of the Chua family’s six helpers were, however, rescued a few hours after the fire began at 2:37 a.m. at the building’s ground floor.

Luisita Servales, 28, sustained third degree burns and was taken to the Philippine General Hospital for treatment.

Myrna Pesaro, 42, who was found at the rear portion of the building, sustained the least injuries of the survivors, with lacerations on both feet. She was rushed to the Metropolitan Hospital.

Hernandez explained that the fire took several hours to control because of the highly combustible goods inside the building.

“The Chua family sold plastic toys, which took a long time to burn,” Hernandez told the Inquirer.

The arson investigator also said that the “impenetrable” grills of the building prevented the firemen from entering the building with ease.

“We had to use a chainsaw to destroy the grills,” Hernandez said, adding that the fire exits of the building were also blocked with merchandise.

“It looked like the tenants made a choice between security or safety,” he added.

Manila Mayor Lito Atienza said he had given directives to his inspectors to make sure that all the buildings in the city were safe from possible fires.

“The building was relatively new compared to the other structures around it,” Atienza said.

“We still have to find out if the tragedy was caused by improper maintenance or the lack of exits,” the mayor added.

Some of Erika’s friends cried openly near the Binondo Church, passing around her framed picture. Relatives of the Chuas refused to talk to the media about the family or the incident.

This is how the building looks like now:

The building in its current state (photo taken on September 21, 2008)

The building in its current state (photo taken on September 21, 2008)

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