Bunkhouse collapse claims 5 in Cebu


CEBU CITY — Five construction workers died after their four-decker bunkhouse collapsed early Tuesday morning in Barangay Lahug this city.

According to the security guard’s logbook, 158 workers of JE Abraham Lee Construction and other sub-contractors were sleeping inside the bunkhouse made of metal scaffoldings when it collapsed over them around 3 a.m.

Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (CCDRRMO) chief Nagiel Bañacia confirmed the number of casualties after the search and rescue operations, saying the five workers showed “no vital signs” when they were found.

Based on the CCDRRMO final count, 103 survived the incident, while four were seriously injured and brought to the Perpetual Succour Hospital and the Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC) for immediate treatment.

Seven other injured workers were also brought to the CCMC for the required medical assistance. At least 44 laborers sustained minor injuries and were given first-aid on the site by members of the Emergency Rescue Unit Foundation.

The fatalities were identified as 61-year-old Carlos Calliwa of Manjuyod, Negros Oriental; Iveen Villarin, 23, and Jason Bacalso, 22, both of Langtad, the City of Naga in Cebu; Francisco Diapera, 45, of Pag-asa, Lutopan, Toledo City; and Crisenciano Silomen, 57, of Kauswagan, Trinidad, Bohol.

Project Engineer Butch Abaya said JE Abraham Lee Construction and Development Inc. is ready to provide assistance to the victims and their families, especially to those who perished in the accident.

Abaya also clarified that the bunkhouse, which was made mostly of metal scaffoldings, did not have four storeys as reported, but had four decks.

“You could not call it a storey as you could not stand on it. The space between the levels is the same as the size of double-decked beds. The workers will have to somewhat crawl to get to their designated bunks,” Abaya said.

Meanwhile, the Office of the Building Official (OBO) ordered the suspension of all construction projects of JE Abraham Lee Construction following the accident.

Engineer Josefa Ylanan, OBO chief, said she ordered the suspension of construction permits of all projects being undertaken by JE Abraham Lee Construction after learning that the company doesn’t have a permit for the bunkhouse.

Ylanan said bunkhouses are usually built within the project sites. But since this bunkhouse was off site, the OBO wasn’t able to inspect said structure.

The JE Abraham Lee Construction reportedy has several ongoing projects in the different parts of Cebu City, including one at the Cebu Business Park and another at the Cebu IT Park.

City Legal Officer Joseph Bernaldez, on the other hand, said the City has the right to suspend the company’s projects while the investigation is in progress.
He added that the City can even file a criminal case against JE Abraham Lee Construction as the collapse claimed the lives of five workers.

Bernaldez said the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) should also come in because the safety of the workers is within its jurisdiction.

DOLE-7 Regional Director Cyril Ticao, for his part, told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) that he has already sent a team to check on the well-being of the workers, especially those who were brought to the hospitals.

“We already sent a team to check if the injured workers were given proper medical attention,” Ticao told the PNA in Tagalog.

“The team will also look into the wages of the workers, how much they are getting paid, and if they have social benefits,” he said.

The team will also assess how the JE Abraham Lee Construction is attending to its wounded workers and whether the company is really shouldering the medical expenses of the patients, added Ticao.

The DOLE-7 director said he supports the move of the OBO when told about the latter’s order to suspend all of the company’s projects in the city.

“I fully support the move of the OBO since we cannot order a work stoppage because the bunkhouse was off-site,” said Ticao.

The OBO also suspended the development of a condominium project of JE Abraham Lee Construction in Barangay Labangon in late August of 2016 after a retaining wall in the construction site collapsed and killed a welder. Luel Galarpe/PNA