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Country’s deadliest hotel fire

Pre-dawn terror


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WHOLE families gripped the metal grilles in terror, weeping and calling for help as firefighters doused them with water to try to cool them down.

A pre-dawn fire that ripped through the six-story Quezon City Manor Hotel yesterday killed at least 70 people and injured at least 41 more, becoming the worst fire disaster to hit the country since the 1996 Ozone Disco blaze in the same city.

A total of 168 evangelists were staying at the budget hotel along Kamias Street, to attend the "Dawn Flower Destiny Conference," a Christian crusade sponsored by the Texas-based Don Clowers Ministries.

Many of the casualties, including children, died of suffocation and smoke inhalation in their rooms. The only marks on most of the bodies were black patches of soot around their mouths and nostrils. Only one fatality was recovered with severe burns.

The cause of the blaze, which was first noticed before 4 a.m. and put out two hours later, could not immediately be determined.
Initial investigations showed a strong possibility of a short circuit, officials said.

Arson investigators are looking into reports that the hotel tapped its electricity from another building at the back of the Manor, said Senior Supt. Jacinto Diquiatco, Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) northern fire district director.

Initial reports showed the fire was caused by "overheating" of the air-conditioning system, according to a police spokesperson.

Quezon City Mayor Feliciano Belmonte said the fire most probably started near a restaurant and karaoke bar on the third floor of the hotel, possibly in its kitchen.

From the outside, Manor hotel did not even appear to be damaged. The flames did not spread very far, but thick columns of smoke did.

Only the interior of the third and fourth floors were clearly ravaged by the flames but on the upper floors that were untouched by the fire, dead bodies were found lying in hallways and hotel rooms.

At the height of the tragedy, fire fighters waged an uphill battle trying to rescue hotel guests trapped in their rooms by iron bars on the windows and balconies.

"It was a very depressing scene, especially it was sad to see the victims just helpless," Johnny Yu, Metro Manila director for civil defense, told Agence France Presse.

President Macapagal-Arroyo visited survivors in one hospital, then tried to console relatives of victims.

"She told me that I can be assured of assistance from the government, but she did not specify what help," said Purita Legazpi, whose cousin died in the fire.

A total of 70 people, including three children, were confirmed dead as of noon yesterday. Sixty-two bodies were brought to Camp Karingal in Sikatuna Village, Quezon City. The others were in hospitals, police said.

All information on the casualties will be compiled at the camp, officials said.

The BFP said 41 of the injured were brought to the East Avenue Medical Center (EAMC), Quirino Labor Hospital, the Lung Center, the V. Luna Medical Center, and the Quezon City Medical Center.

Updated

Friday, March 24, 2006

Five QC officials fired for hotel fire in 2001

Officials blame a lack of fire escapes and alarms for the deaths of at least 75 people after a fire burned a six-story hotel near Manila early this morning.

As the fire swept through the hotel, people were trapped in their rooms because their windows were barred to prevent burglaries.

Reports suggest most of the victims died from smoke inhalation. Firefighters struggled to cut through the grills with power tools to rescue survivors.

About 62 people were reportedly dead at the scene, and another 13 died at the hospital. At least another 57 are in the hospital with third degree burns, according to wire reports.

Most of the victims in the fire were Filipinos, and participants of a weekend Christian evangelical gathering sponsored by the Don Clowers Ministry of Irving, Texas. A total of 172 people had checked into the hotel. It is unclear whether or not any Americans were among the casualties.

Guests Complained About Lack of Fire Exits

According to one official, the Quezon City Manor Hotel, located just north of the Manila's tourist center, was inspected three months ago. Now, this inspection reveals a number of violations of fire safety regulations, and the owners, the management, were given between15 and 30 days to comply with the regulations, according to BBC news sources.

Fire officials now believe that the hotel never did make the hotel comply to the regulations. Officials say that if metal bars are placed over windows, they should be able to open from the inside. A fire official also said that the hotel was also not equipped with a fire alarm.

According to BBC news sources, the Philippines has a pretty poor fire safety record. Building owners begin to ignore the regulations, and they usually pay off regulatory officials when they come to inspect buildings.

It is not yet clear whether or not the management of the Quezon City Manor Hotel did just that.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but government officials are acting swiftly to find out exactly what happened.


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