MANILA — Firefighters were unable to enter a burning shopping mall in the Philippines on Sunday, more than a day after an enormous blaze tore through the building and trapped dozens of people inside.
At least 37 people were unable to escape from the mall in the southern city of Davao after the fire started Saturday morning, and “their chances of survival is zero,” said Paolo Duterte, the city’s vice mayor.
“Our firemen are still struggling to find a way in as the fire is still burning,” Mr. Duterte said.
Mr. Duterte’s father, President Rodrigo Duterte, made an unannounced visit to the mall on Saturday night and met with victims’ family members. Photos released by his office, showed the president consoling relatives and wiping tears from his eyes.
The president “assured the relatives of the victims that the government would extend help,” said Harry Roque, the president’s spokesman.
President Duterte was formerly mayor of Davao City. He was in town on Saturday for the holiday weekend.
The cause of the fire remains unknown. Officials said the blaze started on Saturday morning near a furniture store on the building’s third floor. More than 24 hours later, the building remained on fire and was too dangerous to enter, the authorities said.
The fire started as many locals were completing their Christmas shopping, and workers inside the building were wrapping up their workweek before the holiday. Officials said many of the people trapped inside worked at a call center located inside the mall.
“We are currently coordinating with the authorities,” said Thea Septaan Padua, a spokeswoman for the mall, adding that for now, no deaths had been reported.
The fire occurred as city officials and emergency relief workers were busy responding to victims of flash floods elsewhere in the city. More than 100 people have been killed in the flooding.
The fire occurred as authorities were on heightened alert to the possibility that Islamist militants could target shopping malls and other public areas. In September, when President Duterte was visiting Davao, militants who claimed allegiance to the Islamic State bombed a night market in the city, killing 15 people.