Cavite EPZA fire: No deaths recorded, but...

CAVITE, Philippines – The fire that hit the House Technology Industries (HTI) was declared officially out at 4:15 pm Friday, February 3, clearing the way for authorities to inspect the faciity by Saturday morning.

Cavite Governor Jesus Crispin Remulla, who chairs the crisis management committee, said all 3,189 HTI workers who were on shift when the fire broke out Wednesday night, February 1, had been accounted for as of Friday afternoon. 

Official reports state that there were no fatalities.

"All were safe except the 126 workers who were injured," Remulla said. 

Previously unaccounted persons had gone home. Among the hospitalized, 6 are in critical condition, two of them in the intensive care unit of a local hospital. (READ: LIST: Workers injured in Cavite export processing zone fire

In response to a reporter's question, Remulla said they are not ruling out the possibility of finding dead bodies when they finally inspect the ruins on Saturday morning, February 4.

Since all workers during the shift have been found safe, any fatalities would  be "most likely workers who came back at a later time to look for their friends." 

Further investigation 

After he read aloud a text message from Bureau of Fire Protection Regional Director Sergio Soriano announcing the fire out, Remulla said initial findings attribute the cause of fire to mechanical accident.

The governor estimates that the cost of damage is between P12 billion and P15 billion. 

Remulla announced that 4 Scene of the Crime Operation (SOCO) teams will enter the premises Saturday morning to investigate further into the incident.

The team will be composed of the police, fire marshals, engineers, and city and provincial government responders.

The local and the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) police will also help in the investigation by interviewing those who were injured. It will last until Tuesday.

The crisis management report, once done, will be shared with the public, Remulla said. 

Fake news, rumors refuted 

Remulla refuted the claims that there were fatalities that authorities tried to cover up.

He mentioned that photos of charred bodies circulating the social media are fake. He also denied allegations that the crisis management team is blocking out information from the public.

"Rumors that there were dead bodies trapped in the building as workers crawl their way out is not true," the governor said. He said workers who were "trapped" were actually brought out by their team leaders.

"That's why the team leaders are the ones who received the more severe burns," he said in a mix of English and Filipino.

The HTI facility, where housing materials for export to Japan are manufactured, occupies 80 hectares in the Cavite Export Processing Zone – only 6 hectares of which caught fire. It is the biggest employer in the processing zone, with about 15,000 employees. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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