DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The bodies of the 36 trapped call center employees were found by rescuers near a fourth floor stairwell of the NCCC Mall Davao on Christmas day.
Bureau of Fire regional director Senior Superintendent Rico Neil Kwan, of the Bureau of Fire Protection announced the sad news before the waiting family members Monday afternoon.
Kwan apologized for his failure to save the victims.
The 37 victims worked with Research Now SSI, as call center agencts. The agency is one of the lessors of the NCCC Mall Davao.
Kwan said the bodies were found “Sa lobby ng SSI At nandon po ang bodies na nakita namin (At the lobby of SSI, and the bodies were there, we saw it) I personally counted them. I counted them around 36 in numbers.”
Family members were attending the vigil when Kwan broke the news, they were crying.
“Our sincerest sympathy and condolences and as the ground commander, of this operation, my deepest apology for I was not able to save them,” Kwan added.
On Sunday, the rescuers found one body, identified as Jeffrey Cesma.
Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio told reporters, the bodies were found just steps away from the stairs close to one another.
The remains of the victims were brought to Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) for proper identification in coordination with the Scene of the Crime Operative (SOCO), Philippine national Police, national Bureau of Investigation but for those beyond recognition, DNA test will be conducted.
Kwan said the bodies were charred and could only be identified through DNA matching or by the pieces of clothes or jewelry that their relatives could recognize
He believed all 37 died of suffocation, explaining that “it is impossible for anyone to survive the intensity of the heat as a human being could only survive for about five to six minutes in that kind of heat.”
Three independent investigations
Three independent investigations will be conducted, one by the Bureau of Fire, the second by the National Bureau of Investigation and the third will come from the relatives and families of the deceased.
The conflagration of still unknown cause broke off Saturday, December 23, at around 9:30 in the morning, on the 3rd level of the mall.
On reports that fire exits were locked, Duterte said she is not privy to such issued.
Kwan explained to reporters, the rescues braved dark plumes of smoke and heat which reached as high as 700 degrees celsius, “enough to melt our turnouts, gears, and our masks.”
“I failed to direct and give them orders to penetrate the building with the superheated gases and thick smoke,” he added.
“In that failure, it is in my heart, it is really from us all, the responders, our deepest apology for we were not able to save them.”
Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello III also ordered the department’s regional office to determine if the mall management committed occupational safety and health standard violations.
“The findings of the investigation shall be submitted directly to me for purposes of determining responsibility and for appropriate legal action. Some people must be held responsible for the senseless loss of lives,” Bello said in a statement.
Duterte-Carpio said they city government, SSI and the management of the NCCC mall will met today, december 26 to dicuss the assistance.
But Duterte-Carprio said she already told the SSI and the management of the mall that the “City government will assist and take care of everything from the mall to SPMC to the funeral parlor until the burial.”
Duterte-Carpio said their legal move will be dependent on the result of the three separate investigations “Depending on result of the three investigations, we will file the appropriate . charges if they are warranted in the result of the investigation.”-Editha Z. Caduaya/Newsline.ph
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