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Philippines fire leaves 22,000 homeless
( 2004-01-12 16:10) (Agencies)

A huge fire raged through a shantytown in the Philippine capital early Monday, destroying thousands of shacks and leaving about 22,000 residents homeless, fire department officials said. No deaths were reported.

The blaze broke out before midnight in the impoverished Tondo neighborhood and raged for more than seven hours. It was believed to have been caused by a tipped-over candle or gas lamp, officials said.

The area is crowded and has very narrow alleys, which made it difficult for firefighters to put out the blaze, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman said.

A navy fireboat on a nearby river also took part in the operation.

One firefighter was reported injured, but there were no other reports of casualties.

Soliman said 2,503 homes were burned down, leaving about 4,500 families or 22,000 people homeless.

Philippine's President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo arrived at the scene early Monday and supervised the opening of a shelter at a local gymnasium to accommodate the homeless and distribute relief goods.

Most of the victims were staying temporarily in nearby vacant lots.

 
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