A fire hit a department store in Butuan City early Wednesday morning, killing 17 stay-in employees.
According to the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), the fire gutted a three-storey building along Montilla Boulevard at around 3:45 a.m. Many of the fatalities were salesladies of a jeans store.
Junel Albuelo, store guard on duty, said the salesladies of Novo store were staying on the third floor where the fire allegedly started. He said he heard an explosion coming from the store after which he observed thick smoke seeping under the door.
Albuelo added that the store’s main gate had two padlocks: from within and outside. Albuelo also confirmed that 21 personnel were staying inside the establishment that night.
Three Novo employees survived the incident by jumping to the 2nd floor of the building as the fire raged.
Butuan City Vice-Mayor Lawrence Lemuel Fortun said concerned officials and personnel from the city government and other national government agencies were already instructed to extend immediate assistance to the survivors confined in a hospital.
Fortun said that because of the incident, the street fronting the building had been closed until such time the City Engineering Office has cleared the debris and deemed the area safe for passers by.
The local Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) has confirmed the recovery of 17 dead bodies. All are beyond recognition.