A hero security guard who rushed back into the Davao City mall fire to rescue others has been confirmed as the 38th victim of the tragedy.
When the fire broke out in the New City Commercial Center on December 23, Melvin Ga-a, a member of the mall’s Emergency Action Team immediately joined the rescue efforts.
Mall spokeswoman Thea Padua said Melvin helped bring an astonishing 783 people to safety, including 83 employees of the SSI call centre, where 36 lost their lives.
“Melvin had already brought down several SSI employees and was already seen having safely exited the building at the ground floor,” she said. “But instead of remaining downstairs, he went upstairs again to try to save more people”.
He was not seen alive again.
“We offer his family our sympathies and recognise with the deepest gratitude Melvin’s sacrifice,” added Ms Padua
In a Facebook post published this week, SSI team leader Lloyd Angeles recalled his efforts to save his co-workers.
“It was not minutes, but seconds. Everything happened so fast. We followed the evacuation plan and divided each team to their respective exits but the smoke was already thick and it was already hot.
“I picked up an extinguisher thinking the fire is the AHU. I looked to my right and saw agents just standing looking at each other and this was the fire exit going to Ma-a and asked them what are they doing. Someone said the smoke was too thick. We said ‘go to the Lobby’.”
Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte has said the city will shoulder the funeral expenses for the victims while SSI has vowed to provide bereaved families with livelihood packages. Most of those who died were the main breadwinners for their families.
The mall will also provide scholarships for the children of the victims of the mall fire.
Three government agencies – NBI, BFP and the DILG – are currently investigating the incident, and President Duterte has vowed to get to the bottom of how and why it happened.