Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Zambo Fire Refugees Get Help From Sulu Sultan

MANNA FROM HEAVEN: Above, a fire refugee shows her food coupon, below, the Sultan of Sulu and North Borneo, Sharif Ibrahim Ajibul Mohammad Pulalun. (Zamboanga Journal)

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Zamboanga Journal / 28 Mar) Some 500 families displaced by a huge fire in Zamboanga benefited Tuesday from one of a series of relief mission by the Sultan of Sulu and North Borneo, Sharif Ibrahim Ajibul Mohammad Pulalun, as social workers appealed for more aid to help feed thousands of refugees now in temporary shelters in this southern Philippine port city.

The fire swept through at least 6 hectares of residential blocks March 17, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes.

Pulalun said many Muslims donated food and used clothing for the fire victims. "It was so devastating for someone to lose his house and properties, but this is only a test of our will, so we may become more stronger, all we must do is pray to God, and we will survive all these," he told reporters at the Zamboanga Press Club building, where he distributed bags of rice and groceries to fire victims.

"This is manna from heaven, we don't have any food and now we can eat at least for several days, until we can get fresh relief from other Good Samaritan. This Sultan Pulalun has a golden heart, he helped us Christians, despite the fact that he is from Sulu (archipelago)," Victoria Santos, 39, told the Zamboanga Journal.

Local Fire chief Janice Espero said there were no casualties, but the fire destroyed more than 1,500 houses, mostly made from wood, after a lighted candle fell from an altar. Some P50 million worth of properties went up in smoke. It was the worst conflagration that hit Zamboanga City in decades.

Pulalun said he would distribute more relief goods in the coming days. "This is purely humanitarian works, we need to help our brothers and sisters in Zamboanga, and we hope to distribute more relief goods in the coming days," he said.

Local politicians and church leaders also appealed on television and radio stations for food and water for the evacuees now housed four schools used as temporary refugee shelters.

"Please, we appeal for food and water. Let us help our brothers in God, they need your help badly," said Msgr. Crisanto dela Cruz.

Mayor Celso Lobregat, head of the local disaster committee, declared the fire area under state of calamity, said Francisco Barredo, chief of the Zambonga City Social Welfare and Development.
He said four schools were being used as shelters by the refugees. "We have used these schools to shelter the refugees, at least for the moment, until things are back to normal again," he said.

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