Revisiting a tragic past

There was a day in class when we had a talk/ skills training related to risk management and disaster preparedness hosted by speakers from Red Cross. Our speakers explained some safety regulations and the reasons why we needed them. We were shown past events that were in relation to the regulations explained.

When the speaker was discussing about fire safety, he really emphasized the importance of having fire exits in public areas such as movie theatres and events venues. He explained the reasons why even though a venue has the capacity to hold more than the designated number of people allowed, they have to limit the number of people in correlation to the number of fire exits accessible so as to prevent catastrophes such as the tragic Ozone Disco Club Fire of 1996.

For those who are not familiar with the aforementioned event here is a brief background. The Ozone Disco Club Fire broke out the night of March 18, 1996. It has been dubbed the worst fire in Philippine history and is listed as seventh among the ten deadliest nightclub fires in world history by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). It killed about 162 people and injured 95, mostly students and fresh graduates who were there for a graduation party. The fire began after sparks flew from the disc jockey booth, followed by smoke and flames engulfing the venue. After the flames broke out, a stampede occurred, everyone headed for the exit but the mezzanine had collapsed. The following day after the tragedy, the corridor to the only exit was waist-deep in burnt bodies. Safety officials had said in a statement that the club was only approved for occupancy for 35 people but during the night of the fire about 400 people were held inside.

When the speakers were flipping through the pictures in the presentation, I was shocked. Even though most of the pictures displayed were somewhat blurry you could still see the pile of the victims’ burnt bodies and how devastating the venue looked after the fire. You really cannot help but feel sad looking through it and hearing about the event. A night which was supposed to be full of joy and celebration had ended up being the worst night possible not only for the victims of the fire but also for their families who had to go through the torture of having to identify their loved ones the next day. It was not through the recognition of their bodies but by the accessories and clothes they wore for their faces and bodies were far beyond recognition.

This is event is truly an example why all of us should be aware and follow not only fire safety regulations, but any type of rule or policy about safety precautions because we can never know or control what can possibly happen. We can just try our best to prevent these tragedies from happening and by preparing for it if anything occurs.

This year marks the eighteenth anniversary of the Ozone Disco Club Fire and it was only recently that they were able to convict seven former Quezon City officials who were connected to the fire tragedy. The overall timeline of the tragedy has taken 18 years to resolve and convict people responsible. If it takes 18 years to resolve a fire tragedy and seek justice for the victims how much longer will it take to solve heavier cases such as the Maguindanao massacre?

Alyssa Tan




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