National Catholic Reporter

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Fire in Philippines tent claims kills 7 in family that survived typhoon

Tacloban, Philippines

A mother and her six children who survived the floods and winds of Typhoon Haiyan died Wednesday when their tent in a camp near the city's airport went up in flames.

Authorities identified the victims as Maria Elisa Ocenar, 39, and her children Cathleen, 11; Justine, 10; Jan Mark, 6; Jovelyn, 5; Jasmine Claire, 3; and Jacklyn, 4 months, the Asian church news portal reported.

The fire started shortly after midnight when a kerosene lamp in the tent tipped, fire officer Alvin Duran said. Witnesses said they were awakened by screams and that the tent was consumed in minutes.

"When we arrived on the scene, the tent was already completely burned. [The victims] must have been trapped inside," Duran said.

Ocenar and Jan Mark were rescued from the ruins and taken to a hospital with third-degree burns. They died hours later.

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"The fire spread fast," said Romeo de la Torre, who lives in a nearby tent. "We tried to help but the blaze took hold so fast."

Renante Ocenar, the head of the family, was away at work in Samar province and comes home once a week, neighbors said.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees donated the canvas tents. The agency provided tents for 120 local families who lost their homes in the Nov. 8 typhoon that left nearly 6,300 dead and more than 4 million homeless.

About 30,000 people remained in temporary shelters around Tacloban more than six months after the storm.

The tragedy came a day after two Catholic bishops called on the government to hasten the rehabilitation and recovery efforts in Haiyan-stricken areas.

Bishop Isabelo Abarquez of Calbayog said Tuesday that government aid for Haiyan victims is "a bit slow."

Bishop Crispin Varquez of Borongan said the government has a rehabilitation plan "but there is still no concrete action."

"I hope we can address this problem because if not, we will end up being poorer than we were before Haiyan," he said.


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