ORION, Bataan — The local government unit on Wednesday placed this town under a state of calamity following a fire that gutted more than 900 houses, left one dead and affected 1,018 families of 6,131 individuals.
“Nagdeklara kami ng state of calamity para matutukan ang pangangailangan ng affected families,” Mayor Antonio Raymundo said.
He confirmed that one died from the fire that lasted from 9:50 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday.
The fatality was identified as fisherman Rey Suson, 45. His charred body was discovered Wednesday morning right at his burnt house at the middle portion of Sitio Depensa, Barangay Capunitan.
“Kinukuha niya mga gamit sa bahay. Bumalik siya dahil naiwan niya pera pero pagbalik niya, na-trap siya ng sunog. Mabilis ang apoy,” Capunitan barangay tanod chief Jaime Dungod said.
Affected families were evacuated to the Capunitan Elementary School where they were served food rations and some clothes.
“Mabilis ang apoy. Nasa gitna ang bahay namin. Takbuhan kami,” Belinda Ochea, one of the evacuees, said. She said they have been staying in Depensa for more than 20 years.
Raymundo said the affected families were natives of Cebu and Masbate with fishing as main livelihood.
The mayor said they will be temporarily transferred to a tent community and no longer allowed to rebuild houses in Depensa. He said they were preparing a sort of tent city for the affected families.
“Habang inaayos sa National Housing Authority ang 1,000 houses, ang mabilis na paraan for the evacuees to settle down is to stay in tents. After that, they will be relocated to Barangay Daan Pari in Orion. Hindi masisira ang livelihood nila dahil malapit din ito sa coastal,” Raymundo said.
He said he asked the provincial environment and natural resources officer to assess the more than three hectares where the burnt houses were built. “Isasama ito sa Manila Bay Coastal clean-up,” he said.
Ochea and Dungod said they were willing to be relocated as long as the area is near the sea.
Reports showed that the fire started when two children aged 3 and 4, left by their mother, played with matches.
“Ang libangan ng mga bata ay ang nagpipitikan ng posporo. Nang magliyab, naibuhos gasolina,” the mayor said.
He said most of the houses in the area store gasoline for their fishing boats.
Burnt houses were mostly made of bamboos and some from concrete connected by bamboo bridges along the river banks and shoreline, Capuniitan village head Ernesto De Luna said.
Of the more than 1,000 houses in six puroks, only 81 were spared by the fire.
After the fire, the area looked like a vast sea of burnt galvanized iron sheets.