Short circuit eyed in Sunday’s mall blaze

Posted on April 19, 2011

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AN ELECTRICAL short circuit is being looked into as a possible cause of Sunday’s fire that hit the ground floor of the Robinsons Place at Fuente Osmeña Rotunda, Cebu City.
The mall, which suffered damage in its ground and first floors,  was cleared yesterday to resume operation.
“If they could clean it up today, then the mall could open as early as tomorrow (Wednesday),” said. Cebu City Fire Marshall Aderson
Comar, who pegged the damage at P160,000.
He said the investigation into the cause of the fire is still ongoing.
 He said only the Bench store was destroyed while six stores were partially damaged.
  He said the mall management can cover up the burnt Bench boutique and clear the mall of debris.
About a hundred mall employees cleaned up the mall to fast-track its re-opening.
“We were advised by our manager to return here and help in cleaning the mall,” said Jobert Tabunal, an employee.
 He said they  were confident they would keep their jobs despite the accident.
“The worst thing that could happen to us is that we be transferred to another branch,” Tabunal said.
The Office of the Building Official (OBO) earlier said Robinson’s Place completed all its safety requirements.
OBO chief engineer Josefa Ylanan, said their office makes sure that the building has fire alarms, extinguishers, smoke detectors, water
sprinklers and fire exit ladders before they approve the building permit.
Some of the fire victims said they were unable to hear any fire alarms when the fire broke out at the mall last Sunday.
Ylanan said the Bureau of Fire and Protection (BFP) conducts an annual check-up for every building owner applying for permits.
But Ylanan admitted that OBO personnel don’t personally visit the buildings since fire safety is the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Fire
Protection (BFP).
The management of Robinsons Place earlier said restoring power remains a top priority.
Assessment
Roseann C. Villegas, Robinsons Land Corp. corporate public relations manager, said their head of corporate engineering is in Cebu  to
assess the fire damage.
“Whats definite though is that we have no power yet in the mall. Theres no air-conditioning, no lights, no elevators. As soon as as we
get the power back and we have everything in place, then well resume our mall operations,” she said.
In a phone interview, Villegas said it is business as usual in their nearby hotel property, the Cebu Midtown Hotel.
“There are no early checkouts from our existing guests,” she said.
She said they have to make sure that every safety precaution is  in place before reopening the mall.
Robinsons Place Cebu opened in 2000 with four levels that house 50 retail shops and a number of dining outlets.
It is part of Robinsons Mall, the second largest shopping mall chain and retail operator in the country.
It was incorporated on Sept. 9, 1997, by John Gokongwei Jr., who also owns JG Summit and Digitel Telecommunications Philippines Inc.
Safety policy
For his part Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama called for a meeting with officials of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI)
to propose that they set up their own fire brigades to deal with fire outbreaks.
“(I want to make it a policy that) if you have money to invest on high-rise buildings, you should also have money to spend on a fire
brigade,” Rama said.
The mayor said a draft ordinance for this purpose is being worked on by City Administrator Jose Mari Poblete.
Rama said he wanted to call for an inspection of all high-rise buildings to check if they are equipped with adequate firefighting gear.
“These are things that should be invested upon,” he said.
The mayor said even the Cebu City government, which owns an eight-story executive building and four-story legislative building,
would not be spared from the fire brigade requirement.
Rama said he would city direct disaster coordinating office chief Alvin Santillana to organize their own fire brigade.
The mayor  commended efforts of the Cebu City fire fighters who responded to the blaze  last Sunday.
Rama said he witnessed how they rescued  hotel guests trapped  in the upper floors of the adjacent Cebu Midtown Hotel building
despite their ladder’s limited height.
Since the Fuente Osmeña rotunda where the mall is located was closed to vehicular traffic, motorists used the Larsian Road as a
diversion road on their way to the nearby B. Rodriguez Street. /Reporter Aileen Garcia-Yap and
Correspondents Edison delos Angeles, Fatrick Tabada and Chito Aragon
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