Some 115 houses were destroyed, displacing 900 individuals.
Fire officials identified the fatalities as Necasio Orcullo, 62, and his wife Proserfina, 57.
Police arrested a man suspected of causing the fire, which reportedly started in the house of Edna Basillote at 4:18 a.m.
Edna is the sister of Edwin Basillote, who was caught on a security camera getting mauled by six armed men believed to be members of the Talamban Police Station last month.
Neighbors believed the fire was arson and that Edna’s live-in partner, Jason Hercisio, was to blame. They allegedly saw him going in and out of the house an hour before the fire started.
Hercisio was allegedly seen carrying a container of gasoline, but he was nowhere to be found during the blaze.
In a separate interview, Temoteo Arcachupas, the Orcullos’ nephew, told Superbalita Cebu that his uncle and aunt could not escape because their front door was padlocked.
Sandy Arcachupas, the couple’s 20-year-old grandson, was initially thought to have been killed in the fire as well, but relatives found him later in the morning. (It was not determined how Temoteo and Sandy are related.)
It turned out Sandy had slept at his girlfriend’s place.
Temoteo said his uncle and aunt failed to find the key to their front door because of the heavy smoke. The couple tried to break down the door, but it was made of steel. They could have tried to jump out of the house from the second floor but the smoke had gotten too thick, Temoteo said.
Personnel from the Police Crime Laboratory 7 recovered the couple’s burnt corpses in separate areas in the house.
Carreta Barangay Captain Marciano Ando also believed the fire might have been arson because of what witnesses said they saw Hercisio doing.
Hercisio was later taken into custody but not before he was mauled by neighbors.
Hercisio, though, denied any wrongdoing, saying he was not even at home during the fire.
Some residents supported his claim, saying they saw several people start the fire.
Hera, 20, real name withheld, was also convinced the fire was not an accident.
“Naa kuno’y nakitan nga tulo to lima ka tawo. Ang gibubo gasolina. Kung (ordinary) gas pa, mapawng ra. Kung kuryente, madali ra. Wala naggikan sa gamay nga kayo, nisilaob diritso (Three to five persons were seen pouring gasoline. If the fire had been caused by gas or an electric malfunction, the flames would have been doused easily. But the flames just quickly spread),” Hera said.
Cebu City Fire Marshal Noel Ababon said they have yet to determine the cause of the fire, but they will question Hercisio.
Ababon said firefighters did not have any difficulty fighting the blaze since the affected houses were near the sidewalk.
The fire was raised to second alarm at 4:21 a.m. It was raised to third alarm at 4:28 a.m. The fire was under control at 5:15 a.m.
Damage estimates were placed at P900,000, Ababon said.
Meanwhile, survivors are asking the City Government and other concerned agencies for assistance.
Jesusana Iñon, 58, said they need food, clothing, toiletries and housing materials.
“Among balay totally damaged jud. Nanginahanglan mi og financial assistance ug materyales pamapatukod sa among balay jud (Our house was razed. We need money and materials to rebuild),” she said.
Rose Mel Ronamo, 20, said they need a tent to serve as a makeshift shelter.
“Ari lang sa mi sa among puwesto, ari itukod namo ang tent kung muhatag sila og tent (We will stay on the spot where our house used to stand and put up a tent if they give us one),” she said. (FROM AYB OF SUPERBALITA CEBU / JKV, WBS, JJL )