By Neska A. Centina and Richard D. Meriveles
BACOLOD CITY – The owner of a pension house, his mother, and young son, and the boy’s babysitter were among the six confirmed dead in an early morning fire here at the downtown area.
The bodies of Christopher Java, who owned Java Pension House, his mother, Magdalena, and son, Miguel were brought out in body bags past noon, more than eight hours after the blaze struck the former Bascon Hotel, one of the aging buildings in the older commercial area here.
Two other corpses remain unidentified.
Several other stores at the ground level of the five-storey building were also gutted by the fire.
“We found some of the bodies either in the hallway or their rooms,” Fire Chief Insp. Publio Ploteña, the fire chief here, told DNX.
This means they attempted to escape to safety and could have suffocated, Ploteña said as arson probers are still looking into the circumstances surrounding the deadly fire.
Vice Mayor El Cid Familiaran expressed condolences to the relatives of those who died and the building owners as he urged the Office of the Building Official and the fire bureau to hold joint inspections on all structures in the city.
The law on fire sprinkler systems, he said, mandates owners of new and old buildings to install the fire suppressing measure.
“That way, more lives can be saved, even properties,” he added.
It cannot be known yet if the building had one installed.
Sportsman Oscar Bascon, the former owner of the hotel, said it had already been leased to a niece of his wife.
A Japanese national, meanwhile, survived the blaze by climbing down the fire exit from the third floor, where he was staying in a room.
“I spidermanned,” Katsumi Suzuki told DNX.
The smoke was suffocating, he said, but he made a rush while nearly blinded by it to the escape way.
Ploteña said the blaze started around 4:37 am and spread quickly from the groundfloor through the other parts of the building because of the strong monsoon winds, among other possible factors.