Blaze kills seven at Philippine factory

CEBU, Philippines, AP

A fire gutted an ice cream cone factory in the central Philippines Sunday, killing seven people, including one who desperately yelled for help from behind a steel window before thick smoke overwhelmed her, an official said.

The pre-dawn fire killed a 70-year-old Chinese Filipino woman, along with her daughter and five nephews and nieces who were trapped in their second-floor rooms and a toilet above the family owned factory destroyed by the blaze in Cebu province, firefighters said.

Several workers sleeping in the factory managed to escape during the three-hour fire. One tried but failed to break open with a crowbar a second-floor window from where the factory owner’s daughter screamed for help for several minutes before thick smoke overwhelmed her, Cebu City Fire Marshall Ismael Codilla said.

Investigators were trying to determine the cause of the fire and have not ruled out arson, Codilla said.

Officials have declared March, the start of the summer season, as fire-prevention month and launched an information campaign to help the public avoid fires that cause considerable destruction and kill scores of people each year.