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Prosecutors to File Charges Tuesday Against 11 in Disco Fire

March 25, 1996

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Hundreds of relatives and friends held a late-night vigil and memorial Mass on Monday to mark the first week since a fire at an overcrowded nightclub killed at least 157 people.

Prosecutors say charges will be filed Tuesday against six city officials and five owners in connection with the fire at the Ozone Disco Pub in suburban Quezon City.

Those to be charged, they said, include the Quezon City engineer, chief electrical inspector, fire marshal and three other city officials.

The disco was packed with more than 350 people, mostly teen-agers, when the fire broke out March 18.

To honor the dead, about 400 relatives and friends of victims held a Mass in front of the Ozone and then joined a late-night candlelight procession to a nearby church.

Jane Santos came with her three young daughters and said she still has not been able to identify the body of her dead husband, a car company executive.

``It hurts because you lose your loved one, and then you can’t find him,″ she said, weeping.

Some 20 badly charred bodies remain unidentified and unclaimed, and Quezon City Mayor Ismael Mathay said they may be buried in a mass grave if forensic experts are unable to identify them in the next few days.

Ferdinand Abesamis, head of the prosecution panel, said the charges recommended by police investigators would be criminal negligence resulting in multiple deaths, multiple potential homicide, and serious physical injuries.

They are punishable by up to six years’ imprisonment, he said.

Investigators found that the owners of the disco violated fire safety rules by not having a proper fire exit, and that city officials failed to ensure that safety requirements were met.

Fire investigators say the fire was triggered by an overloaded electrical system in the disc jockey’s booth. It then swept through the building’s foam sound insulation.

``The disco’s owners should not wait for us to ask for help,″ said Amelia Sigua, the mother of a waiter whose body is also still unidentified.

``We need help badly, and they should offer it.″

The death toll rose to 157 Monday as another badly burned victim died. Doctors fear that more of the approximately 50 victims still hospitalized may not survive.

Officials in metropolitan Manila, meanwhile, continued closing nightclubs, discos, movie theaters and other establishments found violating fire safety regulations.

Since the crackdown began last Thursday, at least 55 establishments have been officially closed.

Two bars near the Ozone were padlocked Monday night, but many others in the neighborhood were still open, including some that city officials announced were closed.

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