37 feared dead in Davao City mall fire

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – At least 37 people, including call center staff from an American firm, were believed killed in a fire that engulfed a shopping mall in Davao City, Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte said on Sunday, December 24. 

Firemen found one body as the blaze was brought under control Sunday, Davao Mayor Sara Duterte, the president's daughter, also told reporters.

Firemen have concluded that all those trapped in the building are dead, she said, adding: "They assessed that no one would survive in that heat and with that thick, black smoke."

The blaze started at the 4-storey NCCC Mall on Saturday morning, and people were trapped inside, including in a call center on the top floor, Ralph Canoy, a police officer in the district, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Canoy said the fire was still going before dawn on Sunday morning. (See aerial photos of the fire, taken by Special Assistant to the President Bong Go here.)

"The fire started on the 3rd floor, which houses products like fabrics, wooden furniture and plastic ware, so the fire quickly spread and it's taking a long time to put out," he said.

He said investigators believed some of those likely killed had been trapped in the call center, which operated 24 hours a day. 

The mall's top floor housed the 24-hour call center for US multinational SSI, a market research company.

"It's possible that while they were working, they did not immediately notice the fire spreading," Canoy said of the call center workers.

In an update to his Facebook status, originally posted at around 4 am Sunday, Vice Mayor Duterte provided a list of the 37 missing persons believed to be trapped in the mall:

1. Jessica Solis
2. Gantioco Celestial Jr
3. Ian Kiem Adlawan
4. Regine Generales
5. Christen Joy Garzon
6. Apple Jane Celades
7. Iana Apalacio
8. Jonas Basalan
9. Jim Benedict Quimsing
10. Kurtchin Angela Bangoy
11. Mary Joy Daluro
12. Randy Balcao
13. Rosyl Montanez
14. Missy Rose Artiaga
15. Analiza Penarejo
16. Christine Joy Ferraren
17. Ivan Roble
18. Christine Alviola
19. Alexandra Moreno Castillo
20. Hongijangjian- family not interviewed
21. Desiree Gayle Zacarias
22. Jesseca Samontina
23. Mary Louielyn Bongcayao
24. Nancy Loyd Abad
25. Jeffrey Sismar
26. Johani Matundo
27. Joyne Pabelonia
28. Elyn Joy Yorsua
29. Shiela Mae Bacaling
30. Mark Entera - family not interviewed
31. Charlyn Liwaya
32. Mikko Demafeliz
33. Roderick Antipuesto
34. Rhenzi Nova Muyco
35. Roderick Constantinopla
36. Venus Joy Kimpo
37. Janine Joy Obo

President Rodrigo Duterte, who served as mayor of Davao for about two decades and continues to live in the city, visited the mall on Saturday night to comfort relatives of the victims. (IN PHOTOS: Duterte cries with kin of Davao mall fire victims)

Jimmy Quimsing, a retired seaman, was one of the relatives desperately waiting for news.

His 25-year-old son Jim Benedict worked at the call center and had not been in contact since the fire broke out.

Quimsing said he spoke to President Duterte and had been told to prepare for the worst.

"He told us zero, no one would survive under these circumstances," he told AFP.

'No ventilation'

In a statement on its local Facebook page, SSI Philippines Davao said it would set up a "command center" for relatives of those missing.

"Please continue to pray for everyone's safety," the firm added.

Davao fire marshal Honeyfritz Alagano said the blaze may have started with a spark on the 3rd floor of the mall, which had a furniture section.

"One of our firemen here has a kid who is an (call center) agent in there. He told us some of them went to collect their stuff at their lockers and were trapped," Alagano told AFP.

"The mall is an enclosed space with no ventilation. When our firemen tried to enter they were pushed back by smoke and fire," she said. – Rappler.com