NEWSFLASH

Davao City, May 17, 2002 (STAR) By Edith Regalado - A British physician is in critical condition after surviving an explosion inside his room at the budget Evergreen Hotel here, police reported yesterday.

The explosion occurred hours before a bomb exploded at the public market in Midsayap, North Cotabato, wounding nine people, one of them a policeman.

Davao City police director Superintendent Samuel Yordan identified the victim as Michael Miering, 60, a British-born oncologist who had migrated to the US and had been hunting for treasure in Mindanao for the past 10 years.

Yordan said Miering, a guest for the past four months, was apparently inside Room 325 when the explosion occurred at around 11:30 a.m.

Miering sustained third degree burns and severe injuries to both his legs. Doctors at the Medical Mission Hospital, where he was taken, said his left leg may have to be amputated while injury to his right leg was still being determined.

He was later transferred to the Davao Doctors’ Hospital for surgery.

Yordan said bomb experts have not found any shrapnel in the scene of the blast, apparently indicating that the explosion may not have been caused by "outside perpetrators" and could have resulted from explosives stored inside Miering’s room.

"Since he is a treasure hunter, it is probable he had explosive materials," Yordan said.

Other hotel guests claimed hearing a loud explosion which led them to rush out of their rooms. About 36 of the hotel’s 52 rooms were occupied at the time of the blast.

"Investigations are still ongoing. We cannot give any conclusive statement yet as to the type of the explosive used and any other details of the incident," he added.

Firefighters had largely controlled the blaze, which was restricted to the area around Miering’s room on the top floor of the three-story hotel, but they complained of heavy smoke.

"The visibility was really zero. We could not get in because the smoke was so thick and was intoxicating. It reminded us of the smell of the Air Philippines flight that crashed two years ago in Samal island," said Randy Cambronero of the Davao City Disaster Coordinating Council.

Although almost incomprehensible, Miering complained of extreme pain caused by his swollen ankles and other burnt parts of his body. He was comforted by an American friend Stephen Hughes and his wife Marilyn, whom he met only two months ago.

"We just met him two months ago and he was even persuading my husband to also go into treasure hunting," Marilyn told The STAR.

But a teenaged son of Miering’s secretary Sylvia said the victim did not have any explosive in his room and claimed the blast may have been planned by someone else.

"The explosive was not Miering’s. It was planted. Somebody else put it there," the boy said.

But hotel security supervisor Samuel Parajo of the Elijah Security Agency said the guards are quite strict in checking the belongings of all those who enter the hotel.

"All hotel guests are frisked by our guards. We just do not know how the explosive was sneaked into the hotel premises," Parajo said.

Hotel manager Sarlo Gentapan said the victim was actually a regular client of the two-star hotel.

"He has been staying with us regularly for the past 10 years. He comes and goes and usually stays with us for a long period, sometimes from three, six and even 10 months," Gentapan said.

While there were instances when Miering had problems in settling his bills, management continued to welcome him because he had good relations with the hotel personnel.

Gentapan said Miering’s wife Angela, who is in California, called him up last Wednesday. "That was the last conversation I knew between the couple," he said.

The hotel manager said they are still awaiting instructions on opening the safety deposit box rented by Miering, adding the victim’s passport and other pertinent documents may be inside the box.

In Midsayap, North Cotabato, nine people were wounded when a powerful bomb, contained in a neatly gift-wrapped package, exploded outside a restaurant at the town’s public market.

Investigators said the bomb, made of incendiary chemicals mixed with concrete nails and rigged with a time-delayed blasting device, was left by a man inside the restaurant.

But other restaurant customers noticed the gift-wrapped package and immediately brought the bomb out of the establishment, which was full of people.

Police identified the wounded as Alejandro Capanas, 62, Mary Jane Cago, 10, Bong Batapa, SPO4 Francis Aquino, Flordeliza del Valles, Glen Cansaño, Alejandro Lasana, Jesus Abad and Albert Dee. - With John Unson, Paolo Romero


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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