Blaze kills 24 trapped in Philippine store

From the Associated Press

A fire blamed on illegally sold firecrackers swept through a department store in the central Philippines on Christmas Day, killing 24 people who tried to escape in a restroom, police said.

The blaze spread quickly from firecrackers and pyrotechnics that ignited near the entrance of the one-story building in Ormoc city, 340 miles southeast of Manila, leaving many vendors and customers trapped, said Chief Superintendent Eliseo dela Paz.

He said people who were near the entrance managed to escape, but others were caught in the restroom, where they had tried to find a way out. The remains of 23 people were found there, and another person died later of injuries.

Those killed included customers, vendors and store employees.

Dela Paz said that the exit door in the back of the store was padlocked, blocking one escape route, and that police were looking for the owner.

Many stores and malls throughout the predominantly Christian Philippines were open Christmas Day, a public holiday, giving families a chance for last-minute shopping and for recreation.

Firecrackers and other pyrotechnics are extremely popular during the holidays, and accidents are common.

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