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Manila Fire Kills at Least 75 - 2001-08-18

A fire broke out at a hotel near Manila early Saturday, killing at least 75 people. The cause of the blaze was not immediately known, but hotel management suspects a faulty power generator.

A six-story hotel, which is located in a busy northern district of Manila, went up in flames at dawn Saturday. The death toll is rising, and firefighters are still combing the rubble for bodies.

The hotel was packed with missionaries including groups from the United States - attending a religious conference in Manila. The fire department has yet to release the names of those found dead, but as of early Saturday, no foreigners were reported to have died. Many of the dead were found packed in their bathrooms after apparently trying to escape from the blaze that engulfed the hotel.

Huge traffic jams caused by heavy rains made it almost impossible for firefighters to reach the scene immediately. Guests at the hotel said they began to pull out air-conditioners from the walls in their rooms in order to escape. They said the streets were filled with people and buses, creating a traffic jam and preventing fire trucks from reaching the hotel. It took firefighters three and half hours to put out the fire.

The hotel's manager told VOA the fire may have been caused by an explosion in the hotel's power generation system. Heavy monsoon rains disrupted power supply to the hotel on Friday and the generator was used to restore power supply. The fire department has launched an investigation into the causes of the fire.