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Over 70 confirmed dead in Valenzuela factory fire

(Updated 3:05 p.m.) An official of the Bureau of Fire Protection on Thursday said that over 70 people were confirmed dead, while a number of others remain unaccounted for after a fire hit a warehouse in Valenzuela City on Wednesday.

In an interview on dzBB at noon, Bureau of Fire Protection regional director F/Sr. Supt Sergio Soriano Jr. said the number of bodies recovered onsite has gone up to 72.

Soriano confirmed this an hour after Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gachalian was quoted in a tweet posted on dzBB's Allan Gatus Twitter account as saying that the number of bodies recovered rose to 55 as of 11:45 a.m.

Some 30 others were injured in the fire, but Gatchalian said, "Ito lang po 'yung mga lumapit sa amin."

Retrieval operations are still ongoing in the slipper warehouse that was destroyed by a fire that started Wednesday morning in Barangay Ugong. Various figures have been released since, since officials had to do a manual count by gathering relatives at a help desk outside the factory.

"We're apologizing if there are any discrepancy, but this is the best that we're doing," Gatchalian said during the press conference. "Kasi we'll have to understand, 'yung mga pamilya, minsan twice silang [nagpapa-register] -- minsan pupunta sa amin 'yung kapatid, tapos pupunta 'yung tatay..."

He added that some of the families of those believed to be inside the building during the incident, especially those who are not residents of Valenzuela City, opted to first go to other relatives and to hospitals to look for their loved ones.

Mayor Gachalian has set a 4 p.m. onsite press conferrence for more updates.

Forensic examiners

Meanwhile, PNP officer-in-charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina has ordered the fielding of additional Scene of the Crime Operations (SOCO) forensic examiners to assis fire officials in the retrieval operations.

A PNP statement quoted Espina as saying that the SOCO teams from the National Capital Region Police Office and from the PNP headquarters have been tasked to assist in identifying the retrieved bodies.
At present, 40 PNP SOCO personnel are deployed in the area.

At the same time, the Valenzuela City police has deployed additional personnel to prevent looting and preserve evidence at the crime scene.

Roxas confirms death toll

In a live report over News TV Live on Thursday afternoon, dzBB's James Agustin said Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, who went to the site of the incident, has confirmed that 72 people were killed in the fire.

The report also cited information from Soriano, who said numbers are likely to stay at 72 with the retrieval operations almost at a close.

The said figures are higher than the 68 people the local government had previously announced. The News TV Live report said the current number of casualties is based on the number of bodies found and retrieved there. — RSJ/LBG/KBK, GMA News