x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Thousands homeless after latest Manila fire

City of 12 million just keeps growing with migration from the countryside, and housing squeeze can lead to dangerous conditions.

A fireman shouts and gestures for more water while working to extinguish a blaze in a neighbourhood of shanties in Manila yesterday. It was the latest in a series of fires in such neighbourhoods in the city.
A fireman shouts and gestures for more water while working to extinguish a blaze in a neighbourhood of shanties in Manila yesterday. It was the latest in a series of fires in such neighbourhoods in the city.

MANILA // A huge fire razed a sprawling residential compound in the Philippine capital's financial district on Tuesday, leaving up to 10,000 people homeless.

Arson investigators said the blaze was triggered by a faulty electric cooker in a house at the Laperal compound in Makati city in Manila. It was the fifth major fire at the compound, which is filled with informally built shanties.

"I just came from the area and we estimate the number of families displaced went beyond 2,000, or up to 8,000 to 10,000 people," the city mayor, Jejomar Binay Jr, told reporters. There were no immediate reports of casualty numbers.

Mr Binay said the huge compound was privately owned but that informal settlers had over the years erected clusters of homes that the city government had earlier warned were fire hazards.

"The compound had burnt down four times in the past," Mr Binay said. "It is very clear it is very dangerous to live there."

He said the city would house the displaced at two private sports stadiums while a permanent relocation site was prepared.

Deadly slum fires are common in the Philippines, where years of unabated migration from rural areas has led to the proliferation of sprawling shanty towns.

In Manila alone, 37 per cent of the 12-million people live in slums, the Philippine Institute for Developmental Studies said in a 2010 report. It said the slum population in the metropolis would reach nine million in the next four decades.

Up to 30,000 people lost their homes in successive slum fires in Manila in February, while in January 12 people, most of them children, were killed when a fire rased an impoverished coastal area.

* Agence France-Presse