Residents turn against firefighters in Manila blaze

Agence France-Presse
A deadly fire became even more dangerous as residents in a shantytown in San Juan rioted against firemen, who they felt weren't doing enough to save their homes

MANILA, Philippines  (UPDATED) – At least 8 people were killed and thousands left homeless as two fires struck the Philippine capital on Christmas Day, sparking riots as a slum went up in flames, Manila’s fire marshal said on December 25.

In San Juan, the situation took an ugly turn as residents in a burning shantytown turned against firefighters, who they felt didn’t come to their aid fast enough.

Residents “started grabbing hoses from our firefighters, who could not do anything as they feared for their own safety,” said Chief Superintendent Santiago Laguna in an interview with DZBB radio.

A man was beaten up and later died from the injuries he sustained as the blaze consumed the shantytown in the San Juan district, he added.

“They mistook him for a fireman,” he said of the victim, adding two suspected rioters were also arrested.

Laguna said residents were apparently infuriated by the delayed arrival of firefighters and took it upon themselves to grab fire hoses to aim at their blazing shanties.

However he said the residents were themselves to blame.

“Our firetrucks had difficulty entering the narrow streets that were blocked by parked cars and carts,” he said.

“Our firefighters had to drag the hoses into the alleys, where they were attacked.”

The shantytown blaze left some 2,000 families homeless, he said, a figure that equates to at least 8,000 people.

Hundreds of homeless survivors have huddled on the floor of two basketball courts nearby.

The second fire

Meanwhile, a second blaze in the Baler section of northern Manila has left at least 6 people dead.

The fire erupted at dawn in a row of old apartments. Firefighters recovered 7 charred bodies, all believed to be from one household, fire officer Francisco Mabunga told AFP.

Chief Superintendent Laguna added that the cause of the apartment blaze was under investigation, though he said electrical circuits had probably overloaded from increased use during Christmas Eve parties across the metropolis of 14 million people. –