Death toll from Philippine mall blaze rises to 38

The fire at the NCCC mall in Davao killed 38 people on Saturday, including a mall safety officer who was trying to rescue those trapped in the blaze.
The fire at the NCCC mall in Davao killed 38 people on Saturday, including a mall safety officer who was trying to rescue those trapped in the blaze.PHOTO: AFP

MANILA (AFP) - The death toll from a fire that ravaged a shopping mall in the southern Philippines has risen to 38 after the body of a mall safety officer was discovered, the city mayor said Wednesday (Dec 27).

The officer died trying to rescue those trapped in the blaze at the four-storey NCCC mall in Davao City on Saturday, the operators said.

Also killed were 37 employees of a 24-hour call centre for US-based market research firm SSI on the top floor of the building.

Mayor Sara Duterte, the daughter of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, said one SSI employee is counted among the dead even though her body has not yet been recovered.

President Duterte, who hails from Davao City, has vowed to get to the truth of the blaze. Labour groups charged that the high death toll was a sign safety rules were not met, a claim denied by the mall operators.

In a statement on Wednesday, NCCC mall spokesman Thea Padua denied allegations that it did not have enough fire exits, extinguishers, sprinklers and designated fire escapes.

"We have been fully compliant with the labour standards," the statement said.

The cause of the blaze has still not been determined. The Justice Department, Labour Department and Davao's fire-fighting bureau have ordered separate investigations.