Officials blame a lack of fire escapes and alarms for the deaths of at least 75 people after a fire burned a six-story hotel near Manila early this morning.
As the fire swept through the hotel, people were trapped in their rooms because their windows were barred to prevent burglaries.
Reports suggest most of the victims died from smoke inhalation. Firefighters struggled to cut through the grills with power tools to rescue survivors.
About 62 people were reportedly dead at the scene, and another 13 died at the hospital. At least another 57 are in the hospital with third degree burns, according to wire reports.
Most of the victims in the fire were Filipinos, and participants of a weekend Christian evangelical gathering sponsored by the Don Clowers Ministry of Irving, Texas. A total of 172 people had checked into the hotel. It is unclear whether or not any Americans were among the casualties.
Guests Complained About Lack of Fire Exits
According to one official, the Quezon City Manor Hotel, located just north of the Manila's tourist center, was inspected three months ago. Now, this inspection reveals a number of violations of fire safety regulations, and the owners, the management, were given between15 and 30 days to comply with the regulations, according to BBC news sources.
Fire officials now believe that the hotel never did make the hotel comply to the regulations. Officials say that if metal bars are placed over windows, they should be able to open from the inside. A fire official also said that the hotel was also not equipped with a fire alarm.
According to BBC news sources, the Philippines has a pretty poor fire safety record. Building owners begin to ignore the regulations, and they usually pay off regulatory officials when they come to inspect buildings.
It is not yet clear whether or not the management of the Quezon City Manor Hotel did just that.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but government officials are acting swiftly to find out exactly what happened.
"The issuance of the building permit and the business permit is through the local government unit," said Government Minister Joe Lina. "I've ordered the relief of the fire marshall to pave the way for an impartial investigation."
To date, this is the second worst fire in the nation's history. The worst was in March 1996, when at least 160 people, mostly teenagers, were killed in a Manila discotheque, also in the Quezon City district.