Three people were killed and 23 injured by a major hotel fire in the Philippine capital Manila on Sunday, with others plucked by helicopter from the rooftop of the building engulfed in thick black smoke, authorities said.
The blaze at the Waterfront Manila Pavilion, a high-rise hotel and casino complex, was still raging nine hours after it began on Sunday morning, with two people missing as hundreds fled the area.
Authorities initially said four people had died but later clarified that one victim had been revived in hospital, according to Metro Manila Development Authority acting chief Jojo Garcia.
The three who died had likely suffocated while another 23 people had been taken to hospital, said Manila city’s disaster risk reduction chief, Johnny Yu.
“The smoke is very heavy and the wind is strong. That is our enemy now smoke and the wind which is why our firefighters are having a hard time,” Yu told reporters.
Clouds of smoke covered several floors of the building and swathed ladders of firefighters, some of whom had difficulty breathing, according to an AFP photographer on the scene.
Fire authorities were investigating the cause of the blaze, which is believed to have begun in the casino or mezzanine area of the 21-floor hotel which regularly hosted both locals and foreigners, Yu added.
Responders sent a helicopter to rescue people trapped on the roof while crews battled to evacuate others from lower floors.
Manila is one of 16 cities making up Metro Manila. Nearby cities were helping put out the blaze, Manila’s fire department said.
“This is a major fire. There were those who inhaled the smoke and were brought to the hospital,” senior fire officer Marlon Banaag told AFP.
On Sunday afternoon, President Rodrigo Duterte conducted an aerial survey of the fire aboard a helicopter, photos from his aide showed.
Deadly blazes break out regularly in the Philippines, particularly in slum areas where there are virtually no safety standards.
The deadliest in recent years was in suburban Manila where 72 people died in 2015 at a factory which makes rubber slippers.
In the southern city of Davao, 38 people were killed in December by a fire that ravaged a shopping mall and a call centre. And in June last year, an armed attacker set the Resorts World Manila hotel-casino complex on fire, claiming the lives of 37 people.