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Manila casino attack: Most of the dead suffocated as they tried to flee choking smoke

At least 36 dead, 54 hurt after gunman storms Manila casino firing and setting tables ablaze

MANILA: At least 36 people died after a gunman burst into a Manila casino, firing shots and setting gaming tables alight, the Philippine Presidential Spokesperson said yesterday, in what officials believe was a botched robbery attempt.

There was no evidence linking the attack at the Resorts World Manila entertainment complex to fighting between government troops and militants in the country's south, said Mr Ernesto Abella.

"All indications point to a criminal act by an apparently emotionally disturbed individual," he told a media conference.

"Although the perpetrator gave warning shots, there was apparently no indication that he wanted to do harm or shoot anyone."

Most of the dead had suffocated in the chaos as guests and staff tried to flee choking smoke after the drama began shortly after midnight.

Mr Oscar Albayalde, chief of the Philippine capital's police office, said those that died were in the main gaming area.

He told reporters: "The room was carpeted and, of course, the tables, highly combustible."

A Resorts World Manila official said the dead included 13 employees and 22 guests.

Around dawn, the body of the suspected gunman was found in a hotel room in the still-smoking complex, police said.

"He burned himself inside the hotel room 510," national police chief Ronald dela Rosa told a media conference.

"He lay down on the bed, covered himself in a thick blanket and apparently doused himself in gasoline."

Officials said at least 54 people were hurt as they rushed to escape what at first had been feared as a militant attack.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has claimed responsibility for the incident, but the Philippine military has dismissed it.

"Don't panic, this is not a cause for alarm. We cannot attribute this to terrorism," Mr dela Rosa told DZMM radio.

"We are looking into a robbery angle because he did not hurt anybody and went straight to the casino chips storage room. He parked at the second storey and barged into the casino, shooting large TV screens and poured gasoline on a table, setting it on fire."

The police said the gunman was tall with a pale complexion and spoke English.

Manila's police office said 113 million Philippine pesos (S$3.2 million) worth of casino chips stolen during the raid has been recovered.

Ms Jeri Ann Santiago, who works in the emergency room at the San Juan de Dios hospital, said patients were suffering from smoke inhalation and some had fractures. None had gunshot wounds.

Mr Gil Yonco, 54, was weeping in the street at 5am.

His daughter had been on the second storey inside Resorts World and called him for help as she was choking from the smoke. He tried calling back but there was no answer.

"I am very worried... I need to find her," he said. - REUTERS

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