By Antonio Colina IV
Davao City – The director of Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) 11, Sr. Supt. Wilberto Rico Neil A. Kwan Tiu said the 14-year-old NCCC Mall Davao should be demolished after the four-storey establishment was hit by fire last Saturday.
“For now, I can recommend total demolition of this building,” Kwan Tiu said.
He added the structure has already weakened after it was gutted by a blaze that took firefighters more than 24 hours to put out. Kwan Tium fears the structure is ready to collapse.
The fire claimed the lives of 37 workers of the Survey Sampling International (SSI), a business process outsourcing (BPO) company.
Kwan Tiu said the inside of the mall mostly caved in, including the roof, which made it difficult for firefighters and responders to enter deeper into the mall during their operations. The collapsed back portion of the mall is also very visible from the outside.
“The damage is so much, the entire building is totally damaged except the ground floor,” he said.
Kwan Tiu did not give estimates on the cost of damage, pending result of the investigation.
He said all the debris from the collapsed floors look like layers of “pancakes,” with some parts on the verge of crumbling at the slightest movement.
NCCC Mall Davao is an accredited economic zone by Philippine Economic Zone Authority for its 4,000-sq. m. BPO facility on the fourth floor.
During their operations, Kwan Tiu said firefighters braved thick, black smoke that covered the entire mall. Temperature at the height of the fire was also intense—ranging from 500 to 700 degrees Celsius—enough to melt their protective gears.
He said no one can survive under such condition—without oxygen for five to seven minutes, much more inhaling carbon monoxide and cyanide from toxic gases.
“I think it’s just a matter of minutes before you become unconscious then the intensity of the heat will totally kill you,” he said.
The fire at the NCCC mall broke out at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, December 23. It reportedly originated from the furniture section of the department store on the third floor, Kwan Tiu said.
The fire was declared under control at 8 a.m. Sunday. A body of a fire victim was recovered inside the BPO office’s comfort room. At 5:15 p.m. of the same day, the fire was put out with a total of 31 fire trucks from the neighboring provinces extending help.
The NCCC Mall Davao, the biggest mall owned by the Lim family, opened its doors to Dabawenyos in December 2003.