by Martin Songdong | Analou De Vera | Hans Amancio
Manila, Philippines – Firefighters braved thick smoke and searing heat to rescue dozens of trapped people inside a smoldering casino hotel in Manila yesterday, but three of those rescued did not reach a nearby hospital alive.
The fire was believed to have started in the casino area of the Manila Pavilion Hotel at the corner of United Nations Ave. and Maria Orosa St.
Quickly, the hotel was covered with thick black smoke as employees and guests scampered out to safety.
At least 300 guests were inside the hotel when the fire struck. Fourteen were brought to the hospital for treatment, according to authorities.
A handful climbed on top of the 12-story hotel and was later picked up by a helicopter from Pure Force.
Several guests escaped through scaffolding used by workers for the renovation of the 50-year-old hotel.
A guest was seen waving his bloodied hand after smashing the window of his room. Firefighters were immediately dispatched to rescue him.
At press time, rescuers were using heavy equipment to break down walls and free 19 persons believed trapped in the fifth floor of the hotel.
Supt. Jonas Silvano, District Fire Marshal of the Manila Bureau of Fire Protection, said the fire started at 9:52 a.m. at the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. area that is under renovation.
The blaze spread up to the fourth floor as firefighters battled strong winds and thick smoke to get it under control.
The smoke could be felt as far as far as the UN station of the Light Railways Transit 1. The airconditioner of a passing train was switched off as it passed UN, but was switched on after reaching the Central Station, a commuter reported.
The three fatalities – all PAGCOR employees – have been identified as treasury employee Jun Evangelista, assistant treasury officer Marlyn Omadto, and security officer Billy de Castro.
This was confirmed by PAGCOR assistant vice president for corporate communications Carmelita Valdez.
Johnny Gaw Yu of the Manila Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office said the three were declared dead on arrival at the Manila Doctor’s Hospital.
Initially, four were reported dead, but doctors managed to revive a female victim who remained in critical condition.
A total of 36 fire trucks and 23 ambulances were dispatched to fight the fire that engulfed the 400-room hotel.