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National

3 killed, 5 wounded in Serendra blast; cause of explosion still unknown

Members of PNP SOCO at the scene of a huge explosion that rocked the high-end Ayala-owned Serendra condominium complex at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig on May 31, 2013, killing three persons in a delivery van that was passing by and damaging another vehicle. (Bernard Testa/Interaksyon.com)

InterAksyon.com
The online news portal of TV5

(UPDATE4- 12:48 a.m. June 1) Three persons were killed and five wounded when an explosion of unknown origin rocked the high-end Ayala-owned Serendra condominium complex at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig at 8:07pm Friday, May 31, but Interior Secretary Mar Roxas II asked people not to speculate or fan public anxiety as an investigation is under way. 

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council as of 9 a.m. on Saturday had taken back a mistaken report which momentarily created the impression that six people had been killed. Only three people had in fact died as a result of the blast, the NDRRMC clarified.

In an ambush interview with radio reporters at 12:15a.m. Saturday, Roxas said the blast was so powerful that the retaining wall (from Unit 501) was hurled across the entire stretch of the road, hitting a delivery van that was just passing by and another vehicle. Twitter users said the explosion caused "considerable damage".

“If damage that we’re seeing from this side is any indication, then this was a very powerful blast,” Roxas said. “It could have been caused by a bomb, accident, or combustion of various chemicals.”

He said the important thing now is to find out what caused it, and ensure corrective measures are in place.

He said Two Serendra, the building where the explosion occurred, is now fully evacuated and all power and gas utilities have been shut off.

All other buildings in the same complex will be inspected by a team from the Taguig city government, and Ayala Land Inc. (ALI) to determine the cause of the blast, Roxas added. They will be joined by DPWH structural engineers and sanitary engineers to check possible gas pipe leaks or damage.

President Benigno Aquino III also personally visited the site two hours after the explosion, and only left after he made sure all necessary measures to deal with the situation were taken by authorities.

The delivery van was damaged as a result of the explosion, reported Radyo Singko 92.3 News FM. Posts on Twitter suggested that a portion of a wall fell on the delivery van, which had body markings for "Abenson's".

The three still unidentified fatalities were workers detailed to an Abenson delivery van on which fell an entire wall sent flying down by the blast from a unit in Serendra 2, which some radio reports identified as unit 501-B. The four seriously wounded people are being treated in hospital, Roxas told reporters at the scene.

Officials asked reporters to call it an “explosion” and not a “bombing” since it was not known what caused it.

PNP-NCRPO chief Leonardo Espina was also on site, supervising the work of investigators.

Roxas appealed to the public to bear with the inconvenience from an expanded perimeter enclosure, and let the investigation proceed smoothly.

He said this was necessary to ensure the area is pristine so forensics and other examiners can do their work undisturbed. They will check burn patterns, tear patterns of steel rods and cement, to recreate what really happened. The scene will be enclosed indefinitely, and debris will remain untouched.

Ayala Land statement

In a statement issued shortly before midnight, Ayala Land Inc. confirmed the unit involved is 501 at Two Serendra. “Ten units on the floor were damaged. Four residents were injured and taken to the St. Luke’s Medical Center. Three persons on board a delivery van passing through McKinley Parkway were killed by debris that fell on the van,” said the ALI statement.

See Ayala Land's full statement here.

The building, ALI’s corporate communications office added, “has been evacuated and the residents are being taken care of and provided with lodging while the incident is being investigated.”

ALI said it was “fully cooperating” with probers from the Taguig police and the Bureau of Fire Protection, “as they try to determine the cause of the explosion.”  Meanwhile, a large area in front of Two Serendra has been cordoned off for the safety of residents and bystanders, said ALI.

The explosion scattered debris around the busy Serendra area on a Friday pay-day evening marked by high pedestrian and motorist traffic. 

The area around Serendra also hosts several embassies, notably those of the United Kingdom, South Korea and Singapore.

Radyo Singko reported that a portion of 11th Avenue, near SM Aura, had been closed off by the police.

A resident of Two Serendra Building B told cable news channel ANC that the explosion, from his vantage point at the 6th floor of the building, occurred below his unit's level. Radyo Singko said the blast may have emanated from a condominium unit on the 4th floor. Video posted on Twitter showed an ambulance on site.

An ALI source said that Unit 501 was leased by the owner to an unknown person from May 31-June 9. Authorities are still checking the identity of the lessee.

The blast took place when Bonifacio Global City had a lot of foot-traffic owing to a pay-day Friday. The Taguig City administrator said fire and police teams were on top of the situation, and were already on site to establish crowd control, as well as to conduct initial investigations.

The explosion emanated from the residential zone of Two Serendra, but Twitter users said the blast was felt at the commercial areas on the ground level of Bonifacio High Street.

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