500 homeless after Mambaling fire make classrooms their home

THE Cebu City Government will begin the clearing operations to remove all structures destroyed by the fire that broke out in Sitio Tugas, Barangay Mambaling on Tuesday evening, Nov. 1, 2022, as the structures’ over 500 former occupants temporarily stay in the Mambaling Elementary School.

There is a need to declare the area as “ground zero” and conduct a reblocking to prevent another major fire incident, Mayor Michael Rama announced during a press conference Wednesday, Nov. 2.

Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office head Harold Alcontin said a fire also hit the same area in 2015.

Alcontin said a reblocking was supposed to happen after that incident, but it did not push through since Rama was not able to secure his reelection in 2016.

Reblocking typically involves putting more space between houses to limit a fire’s spread as well as to allow emergency responders to access the fire scene.

City Administrator Suzanne Ardosa said heavy equipment will be mobilized on Thursday so that the clearing operation can begin immediately.

Ardosa said representatives of other City Hall offices are also in the area to provide basic services to the fire victims, such as health, legal and sanitation services.

In a separate interview, Department of Social Welfare and Services (DSWS) head Dr. Ester Concha said the ongoing validation of victims revealed that 527 individuals had been affected by the fire that destroyed more than 100 houses.

Concha told SunStar Cebu Wednesday that they are now coordinating with the Department of Education (DepEd) for the temporary relocation site for the victims.

Concha said they are still negotiating with DepEd on the number of classrooms that can be used as temporary shelter for the victims considering that the full implementation of face-to-face classes already began on Wednesday.

The city administrator said they had also asked the Local School Board to install tents that could be used as temporary classrooms while the evacuees were still occupying the actual classrooms.

The DSWS started giving out hot meals to the victims right after the fire was put out, since many of the victims were children, she added.

Concha said the public can deliver their donations for the victims to the Mambaling Elementary School where a drop box will be installed by the DSWS.

Fire victims are also entitled to receive financial assistance from the city government through the recently approved ordinance for calamity victims that automatically grants cash aid to house owners, renters, sharers, lodgers and absentee owners.

Concha said the owners will receive P20,000, while sharers and renters are entitled to receive P10,000 each. Lodgers and absentee owners can receive P5,000 each.