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Eight Killed in Philippines Fire

May 16, 1998

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Fire swept through the corridors of a suburban Manila hospital before dawn Saturday, killing at least eight patients. At least 14 people were believed trapped in the intensive care unit.

The fire at the Lung Center of the Philippines still raged more than more than eight hours after it started, engulfing much of the second floor of the hospital in thick smoke and flames.

Smoke also entered the adjoining National Kidney and Transplant Institute, forcing an evacuation.

Hospital director Calixo Zaldivar said heavy smoke, heat and debris were preventing firefighters from reaching the hospital’s intensive care unit, where the 14 were thought to be located. It was not known if they were still alive.

Rescuers said they would need to wait for the area to cool before they could enter.

The remaining 180 to 200 patients in the three-story hospital were evacuated, Zaldivar said.

Joselito Calalay, a relative of a patient who was on the ground floor when the fire began, said someone rushed down from the second floor shouting ``Fire,″ and people started to panic. The electricity then went off and smoke began to fill the area, he said.

He said some hospital staff were among the first to leave the building.

The hospital’s chief of security, Raul Caberte, said the fire began in the crawl space above the lobby’s ceiling.

``We had fire extinguishers but they were useless because we couldn’t find the actual fire″ inside the ceiling, he said.

At least four of the victims had been on respirators, which failed when the fire caused an electrical crash, Health Secretary Carmencita Reodica said.

At the kidney institute, smoke forced the evacuation of 54 of the 123 patients to a parking lot, some with intravenous lines still dangling from their arms. The remaining patients were taken to the lobby, hospital director Eileen Javier said.

At least five patients jumped from the second floor to a palm tree and slid down to safety.

``I didn’t think I would survive for my kidney operation next week,″ said Teddy Teodoro, one of the five.