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3 medical students killed in Nueva Ecija fire

(UPDATED 4:45 p.m.) Three female medical students were killed in a predawn fire that razed a town health center in Nueva Ecija province on Tuesday, a radio report said. Doctors at the Cabiao town health facility said a fourth medical student, a male, was rescued from the blaze and was in stable condition. "Mga 23-24 ang edad (The fatalities were aged 23 to 24)," Dr. De Leon of the town health center said in an interview on dzBB radio. De Leon declined to name the fatalities, but a report on dzBB at 4 pm on Tuesday identified the victims as Cecille Quintos, Jessa Perez and Jerilie Murillo, quoting Cabiao Fire Officer Babyboy Esquivel. According to the report, the relatives have claimed the victims' remains. Perez and Murillo were both 2006 alumni of the University of the Philippines-Manila. Miguel Ramos, who was with the three when the fire began on the second floor of the health center at approximately 2:45 in the morning, survived. De Leon said the victims were assigned to the center by the St. Luke's College of Medicine's department of community and family medicine in Quezon City. "Nagpapadala sila ng kanilang medical students, one-month rotation sa curriculum (St. Luke's sends medical students for a one-month rotation as part of the students' curriculum)," he said. Arson investigators said the four students were sleeping in the health center when fire broke out at the two-story facility. Jolted awake, the students rushed to the bath room but were suffocated by the smoke from the fire. The male intern was eventually rescued when firefighters forced open the door of the toilet, investigators said. The two-story clinic is a join project of the local government and St. Luke's Medical Center in Quezon City. The project has been going on for six years, dzBB radio reported. The hospital has not released any statement about the incident. Cabiao is a second-class municipality with a population of 68,382 people in 11,655 households. The cause of the fire was not immediately established. An investigation is ongoing, according to the dzBB report. - with a report from Carmela LapeƱa/LBG/YA, GMANews.TV