Deadly Fire Leaves 4,000 Homeless in Philippines

Fire raced through a slum near the main port in the Philippine capital, killing a 5-year-old girl, gutting hundreds of shanties and leaving 4,000 people homeless, an official said Sunday.

There were no other reports of deaths or major injuries in the Saturday night blaze at the Baseco Compound, a crowded slum along the rim of Manila Bay, Senior Fire Officer Emmanuel Gaspar said. An Associated Press photographer at the site saw people waiting to be treated for minor injuries, including wounds from glass shards.

The cause of the fire, which raged for two hours, fanned by strong winds, is still under investigation, Gaspar said. Fires in Manila's overcrowded slums are common, with the tight living conditions allowing flames to quickly spread through houses made of light materials.

Saturday's fire destroyed 500 shanties.

Amid the ashes and a few wooden posts that were left of their home, Amorsolo Villamor's family ate their breakfast of rice gruel Sunday morning, unwilling to leave the tiny patch of land where their shanty used to stand.

Villamor, his wife and three children shared the place with two other families.

He said his family decided to return to their gutted home after running from the flames because they feared that other families may stake a claim to the land if they moved to a nearby village hall that was being turned into an evacuation center.

Gwendolyn Pang, a Philippine National Red Cross official, said the victims were being housed in two evacuation centers within the compound, including a social hall.

Thelsa Biolena, the Social Welfare Department's regional director, said porridge and boxes of noodles for hot soup were distributed to the victims, and more food packs will be distributed on Monday. The Red Cross will also send food Monday, Pang said.

The 53-hectare compound that used to house a shipyard has been ravaged by huge fires before. A 2002 blaze left some 15,000 residents homeless, and a 2004 fire razed shanties of 25,000 people.