The inferno in Butuan on Wednesday was a complete tragedy. Lives were taken away like ashes blown by the wind.
The three-storey garment store was infamously called Novo. We used to sneak out from high school and spend time window shopping there, enjoying the temperature against the usual city heat, and in mind was the folly of shoplifting plans. From notebooks to under wears to towels to chocolates to red-dressed sales lady – all were memories of what was Novo. And in an instant unexpected, everything of what used to be a well-known department store of the city has fallen to ashes. Everyone felt the tragedy of the inferno eating up the walls and people of the store.
The fire broke out around 4 a.m. at the second floor where more than 20 are stay-in workers. The fire was put out at 6:15. And according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s site, 17 were killed, most of whom were women who were asleep and trapped on the top floor. City fire officials confirmed this, so with the truth that they still not have found out what caused the fire.
Store employee Mylene Tulo, who escaped with two co-workers, said she was roused from sleep as the fire spread speedily in the third-floor office where they slept. Amid the inferno and yells for help, they managed to sprint out.
“We wanted to rouse others from sleep, but the fire was already too strong,” said Tulo who is suffering a fracture on the left foot. The other two also sustained minor burns on their arms.
“The three of us were able to jump outside the building using a narrow fire exit near the office; many were trapped,” she added.
Relatives and friends, most of them in shock and tears, gathered in search of loved ones in front of the building, where police stood before body bags with the victims’ remains.
It was unbelievable and unimaginable, others say. But no, it wasn’t unbelievable. It was imaginable. It wasn’t the first case of fire in the country or in the city. But, people seemed to have not learned anything at all. We have mourned over burnt lives and wealth before. And here we find ourselves doing the same thing again; all because we lack precautionary measures. These incidents are caused by the most evident reason: this country lacks of firefighting equipment and personnel coupled with safety violations.
People lack the initiative of thinking about worst possibilities.
Until then, we will be witnessing another Novo falling as ashes to the ground so long as we are not vigilant and protected. We will hear yells and sirens and sobs of loss. We do the same , not until we learn how to open the fire exits just before fire goes wild.