Dozens killed as fire razes shopping mall in southern Philippines

A fire rages at the NCCC shopping mall on Saturday, December 23, 2017, in Davao City.
A fire rages at the NCCC shopping mall on Saturday, December 23, 2017, in Davao City.

More than three dozen people were killed when a fire broke out at a shopping mall in the southern Philippines city of Davao, authorities said.

All 37 were call center agents working for Research Now Survey Sampling International (SSI), a business processing outsourcing company based in the mall, company and city officials said.

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

News of the deaths came a day after state-run media outlet Philippine News Agency (PNA) reported firefighters had recovered one charred body from the fourth floor of New City Commercial Center mall on Sunday. At the time, 36 additional people were missing and feared dead.

The mayor of Davao also confirmed that all 37 of the people caught in the fire were call center agents for SSI, located on the fourth floor of the mall.

The fire started on Saturday morning in the third floor of the mall shortly before it was set to open.

President Rodrigo Duterte said during a meeting with the families of the missing that there was zero chance of survival, according to PNA.

Davao is Duterte’s hometown. He was mayor of Davao City and still has a residence there. The city is about 1,514 kilometers (941 miles) south of Manila.

On Sunday morning, Emmanuel Jaldon, the chief operating officer for the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, said firefighters were in the last phase before declaring the fire out. He said the fire was technically contained. Authorities have not provided a cause of the fire.

The fire struck as the Philippines reels from a storm that has killed dozens and caused flooding and landslides.

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