CORDONED OFF | A gate at the 10th Forward Service Support Unit of the Army Support Command inside Camp Edilberto Evangelista in Cagayan de Oro City has been cordoned off immediately after a fire broke out at an ammunition storage facility on Monday night. (Photo courtesy of the Philippine Army 4th Infantry Division)
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Misamis Oriental, Philippines — Mayor Rolando Uy has appealed for sobriety following a series of explosions at an ammunition storage facility inside the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division (4ID) camp that caught fire early Tuesday, rousing residents from their sleep.
“I would enjoin all residents to stay calm and refrain from making speculations on the accident at the headquarters of the 4ID that shook the city,” Uy said in a statement.
He was referring to rumors that the 4ID headquarters at Camp Edilberto Evangelista in Barangay Patag here was under attack as explosions were heard all over the city.
Maj. Francisco Garello Jr., 4ID spokesperson, said one of the buildings within the five-building ammunition complex containing ordnance, munitions and explosives was in flames. Garello said the fire started at 12:15 a.m. and was put out at 3:10 a.m.Stored at the building that caught fire were about 150 rounds of assorted ammunition.“The building houses 155mm Howitzer rounds and various small arms ammunition,” he said.
Immediately, fire trucks from the city responded but could not get near the burning structure due to dangerous explosions, Garello added.Army chief Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. has ordered an inquiry into the fire that hit the ammunition dump.
No signs of sabotage
Brawner, who inspected the incident site here on Tuesday afternoon, said he had constituted a board of inquiry that would look into the incident. This will be apart from an investigation to be conducted by the Philippine National Police.
According to Maj. Gen. Wilbur Mamawag, 4ID commander, the Army ammunition dump here is being managed through internationally accepted protocols, and based on available evidence, there are no signs of sabotage leading to the fire.
In his presentation before reporters, Lt. Col. Vladimir Sta. Maria, commander of the 10th Forward Service Support Unit, noted that there were no signs of forced entry into the facility as the burned building’s doors were still locked and intact.
Sta. Maria also said that the facility obtained a fire safety inspection certificate from the Bureau of Fire Protection issued on March 22 this year.
He added that the fire damaged some P27.7 million worth of property, mainly the burned building and ammunition rounds.
At the height of the three-hour fire, some 61 families (327 people), were evacuated to the camp’s gym and the barangay hall of Patag where they are still sheltered pending the completion of a 24-hour cooling period on Wednesday.
Explosives and ordnance disposal experts hope to start clearing operations on Thursday and finish within four days.
The three civilians hurt by shrapnel during the fire were members of families of soldiers who live in an apartment located 300 meters away from the ammunition dump.
Mayor Uy said the city government would look into the condition of the injured civilians and evacuees, and would provide assistance when needed.