Philippines’ Duterte vows to get to truth of deadly mall blaze

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DAVAO, PHILIPPINES: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte vowed yesterday to get to the truth about a blaze in his home city that killed 37 call centre workers.

He said he made the promise when he met the families of victims who had died in a shopping mall fire in Davao.

The justice and labour departments have ordered separate investigations into Saturday's blaze.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre has said his office would investigate with a view to bringing criminal charges.

A spokesman for Davao City mayor Sara Duterte, the president's daughter, quoted her as promising to press charges if warranted by the results of the investigation.

The fire, which broke out in the four-storey NCCC Mall before it opened, killed 37 people working in a 24-hour call centre for US-based market research firm SSI on the top floor.

At a Davao hospital yesterday, families of the dead waited in a silence broken only by occasional sobs as government workers tried to identify the charred remains before releasing them to relatives.

Social welfare officers said five bodies had been turned over so far.

Mr Rhen Muyco recalled his 25-year-old daughter Renzi Nova's last words in a call to her family as the fire raged: "Ma, there is a fire here. If something happens to me, I love you all."

The Associated Labor Unions said the high death toll and the extent of the blaze suggested that rules on fire exits, sprinkler systems and other safety measures had not been followed.

Mall administrators have denied that fire exits were inadequate or blocked.

The fire was among other tragedies during the traditionally festive Christmas season in the country.

At least 240 people were killed, with over 100 missing, when Tropical Storm Tembin struck Mindanao on Friday. - AFP