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Looters cause chaos at deadly Philippine fire

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A fireman inspects houses destroyed by fire at an informal settlers area near a container port in Manila on May 9, 2017. Local media reported a teenage boy died and 30 houses were burnt in the incident. / AFP PHOTO / TED ALJIBE

Looters mobbed a deadly slum fire in the Philippine capital on Tuesday, pulling roofing sheets and electric wire from singed homes as firemen scrambled to contain the blaze.

Riot police surrounded the White Rock Island shantytown at Manila’s port area after being summoned by firemen who struggled to reach burning homes accessible only through narrow alleys that were swarmed by residents as well as scavengers.

An AFP photographer saw about 100 people, most of them men, engaged in tug of wars over electricity cables that had been pulled from still burning shanties.

They also fought over metal roofing sheets that were bent out of shape by the intense flame, which they hauled off using improvised wooden carts.

“These are informal settlers trying to make a buck out of salvaged materials,” Aljeph Lorenzo, one of dozens of firemen who responded to the fire alarm told AFP.

“This happens all the time whenever a slum is struck by fire. They interfere with our work so we had to ask for police assistance.”

The looting happened even as firefighters tried but failed to rescue a 16-year-old boy who had been trapped inside a house.

At one point the wall of a burnt shanty crumbled, narrowly missing some looters.

Some firemen were seen aiming their powerful water hoses at the looters, but the looting continued undeterred until the police arrived.

Huge fires are an ever-present threat in the slums of Manila, a sprawling metropolis of more than 13 million people.

This is because the homes of the poor are densely packed and are made of light, combustible materials such as plywood and cardboard boxes.

Manila arson investigator Armando Maldillo told AFP firemen later retrieved a burnt-out cadaver, believed to be the body of the trapped boy.

Thirty houses were destroyed in the hour-long blaze, Maldillo added.

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