US company confirms staff died in fire at Philippine mall | News | DW | 25.12.2017
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Fire safety

US company confirms staff died in fire at Philippine mall

A US-based company has confirmed that 37 of its employees in the Philippines died in Saturday’s mall blaze in Davao, where it had a call-center. A probe into the fire has been ordered by Manila.

The newly-merged American firm Research Now SSI said Monday it would arrange counseling and provide funding for relatives of its call-center workers lost in "this terrible tragedy."

Its announcement coincided with a southern Philippine fire service statement that "around 36" bodies had been found in an office lobby.

SSI (Survey Sampling International) had its call-center in leased space on the top, fourth floor of NCCC Mall that was gutted during 8 hours of fire on Saturday.

The blaze started in a third-floor furniture section and spread quickly as workers, reportedly trapped, communicated with relatives outside.

"This terrible tragedy has left us with heavy hearts. We offer our condolences and prayers to the families and loved ones of the victims," said Gary S. Laben, the chief executive of the company based in Shelton, Connecticut.

Safety deficient?

The focus remained Monday on Davao's mayor Sara Duterte — daughter of President Rodrigo Duterte — after the city's fire marshal described the mall as "an enclosed space with no ventilation," suggesting lax safety enforcement.

Mall management on Sunday dismissed as untruthful claims by a few survivors that exits had been inadequate or locked.

For two decades, President Duterte was himself Davao city mayor.

Federal probe

From Manila, Philippine Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre said he had ordered the National Bureau of Investigations to probe "the criminal culpability of those responsible."

"By punishing those responsible, we can set an example to others so that, hopefully, there will be no repetition of these tragedies," Aguirre said.

Recovering from typhoon 

The fire added to Christmas misery in the south of the mainly Catholic nation already swept by typhoon Tembin and a major road crash.

In a dramatic turn-up Monday, a cargo ship picked up a 25-year-old woman, Diana Salim, who had been swept out to sea four days previously.

She was spotted before dawn on Monday still clinging to a piece of debris from her home town of Sibuco in Zamboanga del Norte province.

Tembin — now converging on southern Vietnam and its Mekong Delta — killed at least 240 people and displaced more than 90,000.

Son resigns as deputy mayor

Philippinen Paolo Duterte Anhörung im Senat (picture-alliance/AP Photo/B. Marquez)

Paulo Duterte testifying in September

Duterte's eldest son, Paolo Duterte, resigned as deputy mayor of Davao on Monday, citing what he termed "recent unfortunate events in my life."

Since September, he had denied assertions made by opponents during a senate investigation in September that he was linked to drug smuggling. An aggressive "war on drugs" has been one of his father's signature policies.

More recently, he was involved in an online spat with his 15-year-old daughter from his first wife.

ipj/msh (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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