MANILA, Philippines – Philippine embassy officials headed to Erbil province in Iraq's Kurdish region on Saturday, February 6, hours after 14 Filipinos were killed in a hotel fire along with at least 5 others.
In an interview on state-run radio dzRB, Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III, head of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office, said the foreign affairs department has dispatched a team to identify and bring back the remains of the victims.
"We are very sad about this. It’s a terrible way to die....We would like to get more details and do everything that is possible to bring our countrymen home and to look at every possibility to assist their families at this time of sadness and need," Quezon said.
In a post on its Twitter account, the Philippine embassy in Baghdad said the embassy team will be flying to Erbil on board aircraft provided by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq.
#Philippines Embassy team on way to Erbil #Kurdistan on board aircraft provided by UN Assistance Mission in Iraq pic.twitter.com/PQ2d94bNCW — PHL Embassy Baghdad (@PhilippinesIraq) February 6, 2016
Based on initial investigation, the fire at the 4-star Capitol Hotel was triggered by an electrical problem in a sauna.
Aside from the 14 Filipino casualties, 5 more died in the fire: 3 Iraqis, a Palestinian, and another person of unknown nationality, according to Saman Barzanji, director general of the Erbil health department.
Dozens more were injured and taken to the hospital in Erbil, said Fakher Harki, the department's spokesman.
Earlier, Elmer Cato, charge d'affaires of the Philippine Embassy in Iraq, told Rappler that the names of the Filipino victims will be released once their next of kin have been informed. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com