Fire sweeps through Filipino mall ahead of Christmas, killing 37
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Fire sweeps through Filipino mall ahead of Christmas, killing 37

AT least 37 people were killed when a fire swept through a shopping mall in the Philippines on Sunday, government officials said.

The vice-mayor of the southern city of Davao, Paolo Duterte, said the chance of survival for any of the 37 people missing, most of them workers at a call centre at the NCC Mall, was “zero”.

“Let us pray for them,” said Duterte, the eldest son of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The fire broke out on Saturday at a furniture store on the mall’s third level and quickly engulfed an outsourcing business on the upper floor, said a spokeswoman for the city government, Ma. Teresita Gaspan.

The cause was not known but an investigation was being launched, she said.

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Duterte and his daughter, Sara, who is mayor of the city, visited the scene late on Saturday to meet anxious relatives of the missing and survivors.

Six people were rescued and taken to hospital.

Research Now SSI, the company that operates the call centre, said it was making funeral arrangements for the victims and was providing counselling to staff. The company was also setting up a relief fund for the victims’ families.

The Texas-based company, which employs 500 workers there, confirmed “with deep sadness” in a statement that its operation in Davao city had suffered the deaths of its employees.

“This terrible tragedy has left us with heavy hearts. We offer our condolences and prayers to the families and loved ones of the victims,” its CEO Gary S. Laben said in the statement, as quoted by Rappler.

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“Words cannot express how saddened we are. We are grateful for the courageous response of the first responders and others who rushed to the scene.”

According to Rappler, the blaze started at the four-storey mall on Saturday morning, Dec 23, trapping people inside. The call centre was situated on the top floor.

Additional reporting by Reuters