The casualty count in the explosion that obliterated a firecracker factory in Cavite has reached seven and authorities are tracking down 19 others still missing.
Authorities estimated P27.6-million worth of property was destroyed by the fire following the powerful explosion that tore down the factory of Starmaker FireCracker Co. in Trece Martires City on Thursday.
The blast instantly killed five people and left at least 60 others injured.
Calabarzon police director Chief Superintendent Perfecto Palad said two more charred bodies were retrieved at the site yesterday, bringing to seven the number of dead in the blast.
Palad said doctors at the provincial hospital declared three of the five victims who were earlier listed in critical condition as out of danger.
“The remaining two victims in the hospital are listed in critical condition. Doctors are attending to the (two) right now,” Palad said.
He said factory owner Salvador Tan has agreed to cooperate in the investigation of the incident.
Tan sent representatives to the hospitals to pay the medical expenses of the victims.
“Mr. Tan is also shouldering all the hospital and burial expenses of the victims,” Palad said.
Four of the fatalities were identified as Christian Panganiban, Rodelio Iso, Marlon Zordin and Diomedes Enano.
Palad said they are verifying the identity of the three bodies with the list of 19 missing people.
Calabarzon fire department chief Senior Inspector Allan Sison said their estimate of the damage in the factory caused by the explosion ran to P25 million.
The Trece Martires City hall building, which is located almost two kilometers from the factory site in Barangay Conchu, also sustained damage of P1.9 million while a nearby hospital incurred P700,000 in damage.
Palad said city engineers and police investigators are still assessing damage to residential areas within the periphery of the explosion site.
The explosion was so powerful that it sent shockwaves in a three-kilometer radius that shattered windows and toppled concrete fences of nearby homes, knocking out electricity and raining down unexploded fireworks in some areas. Body parts were strewn several meters from the blast site.
Witnesses said the blast had gouged out a crater big enough to fit a school bus.
Palad said the factory is located inside a one-hectare compound while investigators are trying to locate witnesses who could shed light on the cause of the explosion.
“Our investigators from the Cavite police are still in the area determining what caused the explosion. No witnesses have come forward because we theorized that those near the explosion site were all killed,” Palad said.
Police have set up a special task force to investigate the cause of the blast.
Trece Martires officials led by Mayor Melencio Sagun said the factory’s safety permits appeared to be in order and that the site had been visited by fire inspectors regularly before the explosion.
Starmaker had been operating for more than two decades, supplying fireworks for major celebrations and events, according to officials.
President Arroyo has ordered the Philippine National Police (PNP) to look into the background of Starmaker as part of its investigation into the explosion.
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said the President wants a report on all the violations that may have been committed by Starmaker.
Ermita said Mrs. Arroyo wants all areas covered in the investigation, including the possible culpability of some local officials.
He said Mrs. Arroyo was puzzled why a fireworks factory was located in a densely populated area.–-Non Alquitran with Cecille Suerte Felipe, Marvin Sy, Ed Amoroso, Philippine Star