Forest fire burns Cristo Rey monument area in Colombia

Jeck Deocampo   •   September 11, 2019   •   775

Emergency officials stepped in after massive fire burns near tourist spots in Colombia on Tuesday (September 10)

Video shared with Reuters showed the fire burning mass areas of the hill holding Cristo Rey, or Christ the King monument in Cali, about 450 kilometres southeast of Bogota.

Local media said that the fire department deployed crews to control the blaze first reported at 1:40pm local time (1740GMT).

No injuries were reported after the fires died down at 10pm (0200GMT), however the inferno threatened several areas in Cali including the Cali zoo. (REUTERS)

Fire reduces around 100 houses in Quezon City to ashes

Maris Federez   •   January 1, 2020

QUEZON CITY, Philippines — Around 100 houses were reduced to ashes as fire razed Barangay Vasra in Quezon City an hour before the turning of the new year.

The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) said the fire immediately reached task force alpha on Palanas street at around 11 in the evening on Tuesday (Dec. 31) which left residents scurrying to leave the place with whatever household items they can bring.

Most of the households in the area were busy preparing for the new year festivities when the fire broke out.

The BFP firefighters declared fire out at past 1 in the morning.

Investigation on the cause of the fire is now in place said the BFP. — (with details from Nel Maribojoc) /mbmf

77-year-old drug mule becomes oldest Spanish inmate in Latin America

UNTV News   •   December 20, 2019

A photo dated 26 November 2019 of Rodrigo Cariñana, a Spaniard jailed in Colombia’s capital after being arrested for drug smuggling, is interviewed by Efe at La Modelo prison in Bogota, Colombia. EPA-EFE/Oskar Burgos

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA – Rodrigo Cariñana, a 77-year-old currently housed in the foreigners’ wing of the Colombian capital’s La Modelo prison, became the oldest Spaniard behind bars in Latin America after being arrested for drug smuggling at Bogota’s El Dorado International Airport.

Known by the prison-service guards as “El Viejito” (Old Timer), Cariñana is having to make do with clothes lent to him by other detainees – a green sweater and overly baggy blue jeans – since his belongings are still at the airport.

All eyes are on this elderly La Modelo inmate because of his advanced age and vertigo, a condition that makes it difficult for him to walk without leaning against a wall.

The odyssey of this native of the eastern Spanish city of Valencia began a year ago, when his wife left him after 54 years of marriage.

Finding himself homeless and adrift and facing mounting debts, he made the risky decision to become a drug mule, a person who carries a small quantity of illicit substances on or in his/her body to evade detection by immigration authorities or the police.

“I’m here for carrying drugs in my suitcase. I was so hard up for money after my wife left me. They took half of my pension and left me with just 300 euros ($334),” a tearful Cariñana told Efe.

A few years ago in a neighborhood near Valencia’s port, the elderly Spaniard struck up a friendship with a Colombian man that would change his life.

When his “supposed friend” found that Cariñana was in debt he introduced him to a Colombian couple who offered him between 4,000 and 5,000 euros to work as a drug mule.

The Colombians met with the Spaniard on three occasions and finally convinced him to work the “cocaine route.”

Cariñana said the couple deceived him by making it seem that even if he were caught the punishment under Colombian law would not be prison time.

“They also told me that if something happened to me they would take care of me, that they would pay me a bonus. I didn’t believe it, but I accepted,” he added.

With his plane tickets paid for and a belief that he would elude detection, Cariñana on Aug. 23 boarded a flight for Colombia, the world’s largest producer of cocaine.

He stayed for three days in a five-star hotel in Bogota and then left for Palmira, a city in the southwestern province of Valle del Cauca, where he remained for 10 days before embarking on his return journey to Spain.

Before his arrest, he spent a week and a half at a finca (country house) with a woman and her two children. A man who never removed his helmet arrived by motorcycle every day to bring them food and later gave Cariñana a drug-filled suitcase.

A dog at the airport in Bogota smelled the drugs and alerted the police, who opened the suitcase and found the cocaine inside. Cariñana said they did not handcuff him, apparently because they felt pity for an elderly man working as a drug courier.

Cariñana said he was extremely anguished during his first week behind bars because he has taken medication for hypertension for the past 15 years.

Noting that he has suffered ups and downs from the medicine administered to him in Bogota, Cariñana said he is not afraid of dying but is worried that he could end up “half-paralyzed.”

A lump forms in his throat as he ponders the future.

“I don’t have a future anymore. After this, I won’t go back to my neighborhood, where I lived for 50 years,” Cariñana said.

“I know I’m to blame, but I hope the Spanish government takes into account my age in getting me repatriated as soon as possible. If not, I won’t set foot in Spain ever again. I’ll die here,” he added.

David Casasus Marquez/EFE-EPA

Over 200 families lost their homes in Manila fire

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 22, 2019

Over 200 families have lost their homes after a fire broke out in Sta. Cruz, Manila on Tuesday (October 22).

Based on the accounts of several residents, a power line exploded and caused a fire in their area around 12:00 p.m.

The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) said the fire quickly spread because the houses at the compound were made of light materials. They immediately raised the alarm to Task Force Bravo.

Manila Fire District District Fire Mashall F/Ssupt. Rodolfo Denaga said they find it difficult to control the fire because they couldn’t reach the base of the fire.

“Kung makita po natin, wala tayong access doon sa base of [the] fire, (If you can see, we have no access to the base of the fire)” he said. “Sa fire fighting kasi, kailangan nating ma-hit ng ating water stream iyong base of fire. So, iyon po ang problema natin, (In fire fighting, our water stream should hit the base of the fire. So, that is our problem).”

No casualties have been reported so far. However, one fireman was given first aid after getting hit by a falling object.

The victims of the fire are temporarily taking shelter at the Rizal Avenue covered court.—AAC (with reports from Asher Cadapan Jr.)

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