Davao, Dec 24: At least 37 people, including call centre staff from an American firm, are believed to have perished in a fire that tore through a shopping mall in the southern Philippine city of Davao, local authorities said on Sunday.
President Rodrigo Duterte, himself a Davao native, visited distraught relatives outside the burning building overnight but told them there was “zero” chance their loved ones had survived, witnesses told AFP.
Firemen found one body as the blaze was brought under control Sunday, Davao Mayor Sara Duterte, the president’s daughter, 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 deadly fire adds fresh misery for the mainly Catholic Philippines at Christmas as the death toll from a tropical storm that hit the south on Friday topped 200 and displaced tens of thousands of others. The blaze started at the four-storey NCCC Mall on Saturday morning sending thick plumes of black smoke billowing into the sky over Davao.
With low wages but strong English language skills, the Philippines is a popular destination for international companies to set up customer call centres.
The mall’s top floor housed a 24-hour call centre for US multinational SSI, a market research company.