A mall blaze in the southern Philippines city of Davao is feared to have killed dozens of employees of an American-linked call-center on its top floor. The fire brings added tragedy to a region hit by a tropical storm.
MANILA, Philippines – After losing 37 workers in a mall fire, Research Now SSI said it arranged counseling for its employees, supported funeral arrangements, and planned to create a fund for contributions to the victims’ families.
In a statement released to the media on Christmas Day, the Texas-based company confirmed “with deep sadness” the death of its employees in its local call center operation in Davao City. The company employs 500 workers there.
“This terrible tragedy has left us with heavy hearts. We offer our condolences and prayers to the families and loved ones of the victims,” said Gary S. Laben, CEO of Research Now SSI, in the statement.
“Words cannot express how saddened we are. We are grateful for the courageous response of the first responders and others who rushed to the scene.”
The blaze started at the 4-storey NCCC Mall on Saturday morning, December 23, trapping people inside. The call center, which operates 24 hours a day, was at the mall’s top floor.
The fire is said to have started on the 3rd floor, which houses products like fabrics, wooden furniture, and plastic ware, causing the fire to spread widely and quickly.
Early on, families looking for their loved on were told by authorites that those trapped had zero chances of survival.
President Rodrigo Duterte, who served as mayor of Davao for about two decades and continues to live in the city, visited the mall on Saturday night to comfort relatives of the victims. (IN PHOTOS: Duterte cries with kin of Davao mall fire victims)
The information technology and business process outsourcing (IT-BPO) sector, including call centers, is one of the country’s largest and fastest growing industries. Multinational companies often outsources their services to the Philippines where service is cheap, and many workers are fluent in English.
Research Now SSI said it would release details soon of the fund it is starting for the families of those left behind