DAVAO CITY, Philippines (UPDATED) – Local authorities found 36 lifeless bodies inside the NCCC Mall in Davao City on Monday, December 25, two days after it was engulfed by fire.
This was announced by Davao City Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) Director Sr Superintendent Wilberto Rico Neil Kwan Tiu on Monday afternoon, Christmas Day.
“We found them lifeless. I personally counted them. There were around 36,” he told families of those who had been trapped inside the burning mall.
The families, who were attending a vigil Mass right in front of the NCCC Mall, were heard howling and weeping after Kwan Tiu made the announcement, tragically ending an agonizing wait for news about their loved ones.
BFP Davao director Kwan Tiu addresses the families: Our deepest apologies, we were not able save them. pic.twitter.com/7wnWdnhqYw— Mick Basa (@MickBasa) December 25, 2017
Addressing families that had been waiting for days for news about their loved ones, Kwan Tiu said he was sorry for giving them such terrible news on Christmas Day.
“Our deepest apologies, we were not able to save them,” he said.
Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio earlier said 37 people were feared to have died inside the 4-story mall.
Fire broke out at around 9:30 am on Saturday, December 23, on the 3rd level of the mall situated at the corner of MacArthur Highway and Ma-a Road.
Rescuers braved dark plumes of smoke and heat which Kwan Tiu said reached as high as 700 degrees celsius, “enough to melt our turnouts, gears, and our masks.”
“I failed to direct and give them orders to penetrate the building with the superheated gases and thick smoke,” he added.
“In that failure, it is in my heart, it is really from us all, the responders, our deepest apology for we were not able to save them.”
He recalled the instance when Mayor Duterte-Carpio asked him to continue looking for the others.
“I said (back) to the mayor: I will not stop until I find the rest,” said Kwan Tiu.
Many of those who were trapped inside the burning mall were employees of American call center firm SSI. (READ: U.S. firm to help kin of employees killed in Davao mall fire)
The Department of Justice said it will launch a criminal investigation into the cause of the fire while the Department of Labor and Employment vowed to probe whether or not the mall should be held liable for the deadly blaze. – Rappler.com