Massive fire strikes Antique’s first shopping center
ILOILO CITY – Around 400 workers at the large Gaisano shopping center in the province of Antique are at risk of losing their jobs after a massive fire engulfed a significant part of its only mall on Thursday evening.
Former Governor Rhodora Cadiao said on Friday the capital would have to shell out £ 2million in cash and rice for displaced workers as she called on mall management to absorb workers from other branches until the mall can operate again.
The fire started in the shopping center along Barangay 8 in the capital San José shortly before 5:30 p.m. and was brought under control more than five hours later at 10:56 p.m.
“The fire continues but without danger of propagation. We estimate that we could declare a “fire” by Monday. We are praying for heavy rains, ”said the senior superintendent. Jerry Candido, fire marshal for the Western Visayas, told the Inquirer on Friday in a telephone interview.
No injuries were reported, but residents near the mall had to evacuate during the height of the fire due to the heat and thick smoke.
Candido said they are still investigating the extent of the damage and the cause of the blaze, considered the largest to strike the ancient province in recent memory.
The fire is believed to have started at the women’s clothing department on the second floor of the two-story building before spreading rapidly.
Firefighters, including those from neighboring Iloilo and Aklan provinces, struggled to enter the building due to the extreme heat, according to Candido.
The Gaisano Grand Mall is the first shopping center in the province and considered a landmark for many Antiqueños. It is still unclear when and if the mall will resume operations given the extent of the damage.
Cadiao said that in addition to mall employees, businesses in the mall that were already reeling from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic were also affected.
The provincial government will provide cash assistance of 5,000 pesos, along with rice, to each of the affected workers.
Residents have also started donating rice and cash to affected employees. –NESTOR P. BURGOS JR. INQ
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