Saturday, October 20, 2007


MANILA, Philippines -- The explosion that ripped through the Glorietta 2 Mall in Makati City early Friday afternoon, killing eight people and wounding more than a hundred others was caused by a “hard explosive,” mostly likely TNT or the military ordnance C4, police said.

Chief Inspector Raynold Rosero of the Philippine Bomb Data Center said the explosive went off near an escalator and could have been exacerbated by liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) tanks in nearby restaurants.

"We've submitted the evidence to the crime lab for chemical analysis and we saw that near the scene of [the] explosion were establishments with LPG," he said.

Rosero said they have yet to determine whether the explosion was set off by a timer or triggered remotely by cellular phone, the signature attack of the Al-Qaeda linked Southeast Asian terror network Jemaah Islamiyah and the local Abu Sayyaf.

He described the explosion as "most likely a deliberate attack."

Philippine National Police Director General Avelino Razon and Alfonso Reyes, spokesman of Ayala Corp., which operates the Glorieta 2 Mall where the explosion occurred at around 1:40 p.m., said eight people had been killed.

Makati Councilor JunJun Binay, who has been providing regular updates on the situation, said the injury count had climbed to at least 126 -- 98 of these needing hospitalization and 28 other victims given first aid at the blast site for minor injuries.

Of the injured, Binay said, three are listed in critical condition and in the Intensive Care Unit of the Makati Medical Center. At least one other victim is undergoing surgery as of this posting.

Binay also said at least one of the dead was a Korean.

A partial list of the injured at the Makati Medical Center (see list at end of article) showed another Korean and a Chinese national were among the injured.

Police investigators at the scene of the explosion identified four of the dead as Liza Marquez, Jose Allan de Jesus, Lester Peregrina and nursing student Janine Marcos. All died of shrapnel injuries. Another fatality was later identified as Maureen De Leon.

At an earlier press briefing carried live by radio and television, Dr. Ernesto Santos of the Makati Medical Center said the four fatalities were “dead on arrival” and at least two of the wounded were “critical.”

Santos said the other casualties all suffered “blast injuries.”

Dr. Anthony Golez, spokesman of the National Disaster Coordinating Council and deputy administrator of the Office of Civil Defense, told from the Makati Medical Center that the four died due to "burns and massive internal bleeding."

"It doesn't look good," he said.

Director Geary Barias, chief of the National Capital Region Police Office, said they are not discounting anything," including the possibility that the explosion was a terrorist attack.

Barias also said there had been no intelligence reports prior to the blast, despite a terror alert issued earlier this month by the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, which is composed of various security institutions like the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“We actually picked up several dead and wounded,” Binay said.

He said the explosion left an eight-meter (26-foot) wide crater on the ground floor and blew a hole through the roof on the second floor.

"From what I have seen it was a significant explosion and that most of the dead and injured were all employees," he said.

Witnesses said the blast occurred in a section of the mall with clusters of stores selling baby clothes and toys.

The explosion had panicked shoppers running out of the mall as smoke billowed out of the building.

Mall security and police immediately sealed off the area and shepherded people away as ambulances rushed in to evacuate casualties.

People leaving the mall told said they felt the whole shopping complex shake as from an earthquake as the “strong” explosion happened in the area between the Glorietta 1 and 2 buildings. They also said they saw windows shatter from the blast.

Witnesses said part of a ceiling collapsed while a concrete wall was blown out.

Two cars and two delivery vans were buried under wooden planks and concrete debris outside the mall.

"It was so powerful," clothing store clerk Jeric Balendes told AFP on the scene, as rescuers applied first aid on his cuts and bruises.

"The roof just collapsed on us. I could hear my three co-workers screaming. I got out through a small hole. I don't know if they got out."

One of the injured, Teresita de La Cruz, 24, recalled thinking: "Are we going to die here?"

"People were panicking and shoving each other, and running in all directions. I was very scared," she told reporters outside the Makati Medical Center.

De La Cruz, a saleslady for a custom sticker company, said the blast likely originated from somewhere on the second floor near the escalator. "It was just one explosion, but it was loud and strong," she said.

But the police, citing initial reports, said the blast may have originated from the storeroom of the Luk Yuen restaurant, which was initially tagged as the site of the blast.

Bomb debris carpeted a 200-square-meter (2,100-square-foot) area, he added.

"The ceilings are damaged and may collapse," Barias said.

The entrance to the mall, the lobby and the activity center were a total wreck, buried under piles of wooden planks, slabs of cement, and parts of the roof.

Rosero said police were clearing the rubble, adding it could be dangerous for investigators to stay inside the mall to gather more evidence.

"There are hazards. There is falling debris inside, there could be a chemical leak [or] high-voltage wires, and the water inside is knee-deep," he said.

He added that the concrete floor of the area had also been raised by the blast.

Binay said all fatalities appear to have been recovered and search and rescue operations were called off Friday night.

Barias also inspected the nearby SM mall to ensure there will be no other explosions.

The United States and Australia both offered technical help in investigating the blast, and Australian experts were understood to be helping Filipino police on the scene.

Binay said roads to hospitals in the city have been secured as rescue teams continued to scour the area where the explosion occurred, which the councilor described as “severely damaged,” for more possible victims.

“We’ll keep the area evacuated until we know more,” Reyes said.

He also assured the victims and their relatives of assistance from Ayala Corp.

“We will certainly makes sure [that] anyone [who] needs attention will be able to get it,” Reyes said.

Police did not immediately name likely suspects for the attack, but Islamic extremists were blamed for a bomb attack on a bus near the site of Friday’s explosion. That attack killed four people in February 2005.

Militants also firebombed a ferry on Manila Bay the previous year, killing more than 100 people in the country's worst terrorist attack.

Arroyo's National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales has previously said the government was not ruling out future attacks on "soft" targets such as shopping malls.

Following are the names of 34 of the injured rushed to the Makati Medical Center. The list is current as of 3 p.m. Friday.

Donald Santos
Julia Hernandez
Anna Patria Villareal
Ellen Garcia
Abraham Jose
Ma. Ceronara Estilles
Fely Reyes
Agnes Ramilo
Shirley Boleno
Socorro Yrastroza
Ma. Lourdes Perez
Mutya Santos
Arlene Pansal
Robinson Orlanda
Hernanin Asis
Sally Honopra
Carmen Enriquez
Alberto Gonzales
Regina Montenegro
Christopher Pineda
Hei Wun Kim (Korean)
Queene Ngo (Chinese)
John Henry Pascual
Evangeline de Leon
Jerry Canaban
Elizabeth Liboro
Jeffrey Burser
Maricel Marcelo
Lady Katrina Santos
May Flor Garcia
Angela Maria Soriano
Mary Flor Gopis
Josephine Santos
Mabini Garcia

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