36 bodies found after Philippine mall blaze from li's blog

World news,Firemen yesterday found the bodies of “around” 36 people after a deadly blaze at a shopping mall in the southern Philippines, a fire official said as the government launched a criminal investigation.

The discovery raised to 37 the confirmed death toll from the NCCC shopping mall fire in the city of Davao on Mindanao Island.

The Davao region chief of the Bureau of Fire Protection, Wilberto Rico Neil Kwan Tiu, told weeping relatives of the missing that he personally counted “around 36” bodies in an office lobby at the gutted mall.

City mayor Sara Duterte, daughter of President Rodrigo Duterte, said earlier that 38 people were missing and feared dead in the fire, with one other unidentified body recovered on Sunday.

“I personally counted them before I gave the information to our honorable mayor... around 36,” Kwan Tiu told weeping relatives, who clutched long-stemmed white flowers as they attended a mass.

“As the ground commander of this operation my deepest apology for I was not able to save them,” said the fire official, who joined a search inside the building at midday.

The blaze began on Saturday, trapping call center workers of US-based market research firm SSI, which announced on its website late Sunday that 37 of its 500 employees at the top-floor office had been “lost” in the fire.

Philippine authorities ordered a criminal investigation yesterday as allegations surfaced of locked or non-existent fire exits at the building, which its administrators denied.

“By punishing those responsible, we can set an example to others so that hopefully there will be no repetition of those tragedies,” Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre said in a statement.

Mall operators denied the claims.

“There is no truth to that allegation. In fact as per accounts of those who got out, they were able get out thru the fire exit,” Thea Padua, the mall’s public relations officer, said in a text message.

Davao’s fire marshal described the shopping mall on Sunday as “an enclosed space with no ventilation”, though the authorities said they had yet to determine the cause of the blaze.

Deadly blazes occur regularly in the Philippines, particularly in slum areas where there are virtually no fire safety standards.

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