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Philippines Hotel Fire Kills 68

August 18, 2001

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ A fire raged through a six-story hotel in a Manila suburb before dawn Saturday, killing at least 68 people, firefighters said.

Many of the dead were packed into hotel bathrooms after apparently trying to escape the flames and smoke at the Manor Hotel in Quezon City, they said.

The fire broke out at about 4:15 a.m. and was extinguished 3 1/2 hours later.

Firefighters said they recovered 56 bodies in an initial foray into the hotel, then another 12 and were still searching more rooms.

Eugene Schwebler, a 60-year-old hotel guest from Wisconsin who escaped the blaze, said a contingent from the missionary group Missionary Evangelists Philippines-World were staying at the hotel for a convention.

``There were 160 people in our group,″ he said. ``I don’t know how many came out. The lights went out and we heard people screaming.″

He said he tried to leave through the corridor but the heat turned him back to his room. He said he then pulled the air conditioner out of the wall to give him access to the fire escape.

Schwebler said he thought the fire started in a restaurant on the third floor.

An unidentified woman interviewed by DZMM radio said she was trapped in her third-floor room by metal bars on the window but firefighters using a ladder cut the bars from outside to extract her.

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