Philippines: Butuan store fire kills 17


Firefighters try to extinguish a fire that gutted a department store in Butuan City, Agusan del Norte province, on the southern island of Mindanao, Philippines, early on May 9, 2012.

An early-morning fire at a three-story clothing store in Butuan, Philippines, killed 17 people today, the Associated Press reported.

All of the victims were employees at the Novo Jeans store on the building’s ground floor who were sleeping in a third floor office overnight, the Manila Bulletin reported. (Many stores in the Philippines permit employees to sleep on the premises, especially if they have a long commute, according to the AP.)

The women were trapped when the blaze broke out in the Tan building on Montilla Boulevard around 4 a.m., the Manila Bulletin reported. Firemen found 12 bodies in the sleeping area and 5 bodies on the second floor.

Three workers managed to run out of the building, according to the AP. "We wanted to rouse others from sleep, but the fire was already too strong," store employee Mylene Tulo told the AP.

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Butuan officials said that the fire was the worst the city had seen, according to the Manila Bulletin. Fifteen fire trucks from nearby cities and provinces and fire fighters from a local mall helped put out the fire.

“Based on the initial investigation, the fire started inside the Novo Jeans outlet. But it is still being verified what started the fire,” Supt. Martin Gamba, spokesman of the Caraga regional police, told the Manila Bulletin.

According to the AP:

A lack of firefighting equipment and personnel coupled with safety violations has resulted in major fire disasters in the Philippines, especially in shantytowns.

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