Christmas Day Shop Fire Kills 25 in Philippines

Sixty years old Victoria Domingo wearing a Santa Claus outfit tosses candies and money to her impoverished neighbours from the roof top of a house in Manila, Dec. 25, 2006 (AFP Photo)

Twenty-five Christmas shoppers were killed, including a pregnant woman and two babies, when a fire swept through a packed store in the central Philippines, the Office of Civil Defense said Tuesday.

The fire struck the Unitop General Merchandising Store in Ormoc city, some 550 kilometers (340 miles) southeast of Manila, on Monday when the predominantly Catholic Philippines was celebrating Christmas Day.

Initial investigation said the seven-hour fire was caused by a "tracer bullet toy gun" fired by a shopper that hit a pile of firecrackers sold at the store, Ormoc police chief Manuel Cubillo said.

The store was not licensed to sell fire-crackers, which are traditionally used to greet the New Year here.

The fire quickly engulfed the front portion of the store, trapping panicked shoppers, Cubillo said.

He said 25 people perished in the fire, including a pregnant mother and her four-year-old son. The Office of Civil Defense in Manila said the casualties included two babies.

The bodies were recovered by firefighters inside the store's toilet, where the victims had sought safety.

Nine others were reportedly injured in the fire and are being treated in hospital.

Ormoc City Mayor Eric Codilla said he had ordered authorities to investigate the tragedy.

Source: AFP

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