[PHOTO AT LEFT: UP IN FLAMES: Young boys watch as flames gobble up shanties in a squatters’ area on Evangelista street in Pasay City Monday night. - Joven Cagande]

METRO MANILA, OCTOBER 22, 2003  (STAR) By Edu Punay  - Some 1,500 families were rendered homeless yesterday after a fire broke out at a residential area in Gamban, Pasay City the other night amid heavy rains and strong winds.

Senior Fire Officer 1 Alfredo Delfin said more than 400 houses were razed in the seven-hour blaze, which started at 8:08 p.m. inside a house belonging to a certain Ramon Alavera in Barangay 143 Zone 15.

Delfin said the fire spread quickly to neighboring Barangays 144 and 137, even reaching the nearby BLTB bus terminal.

He estimated the cost of damage at around P15 million as several vehicles were razed inside a car repair shop at the BLTB compound.

Investigators have yet to confirm reports that Alavera was to blame after he allegedly threw a gas lamp at his wife in the heat of an argument.

Delfin said Alavera’s neighbors have tagged him as the culprit. "Pinagsusuntok siya ng mga tao. Yung pagtapon daw nya ng gasera ang pinagmulan ng sunog. "

FO3 Rogelio Marasigan sustained first degree burns after he was hit by falling debris while battling the blaze, which reached Task Force India, the general alarm.

Delfin said four firetrucks from the Pasay City Fire Department were delayed because of the heavy traffic as well as the difficulty of entering the narrow streets, compounded by residents who were blocking the roads.

"The fire took place during the rush hour, when motorists were on their way home," he said.

Delfin said the delay in disconnecting electricity and lack of water supply in the area also added to their woes.

"Transformers exploding and there were sparks from wires everywhere, "he said.

The fire was declared out at 3:10 a.m. yesterday. Two hours later, however, there was a minor rekindle, which was immediately contained.

"We couldn’t monitor or control the entire area. May mga bahay-bahay dun na natabunan. Di naming malaman kung may apoy pa sa ilalim," Delfin said.

Affected residents found temporary refuge on a service lane beside the MRT and under the Magallanes flyover. Some of them told The STAR that they would rather stay there than go to crowded evacuation centers, for fear that the appliances they saved might be stolen.

Pasay City Mayor Wenceslao "Peewee" Trinidad said yesterday that affected families have been temporarily relocated to three gymnasiums, where they would be provided with food in the next few days.

The victims were taken to the Pasay City East High School, Abella Cruz Elementary School and the Malibay public gymnasium.

The city government will be coordinating with the local office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Philippine National Red Cross in providing assistance to the families.

Trinidad, who returned to the site of the fire yesterday morning, said: "We will distribute food bags containing coffee, sugar, sardines, canned goods and rice for each family." – with Evelyn Macairan

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved