PHL diplomats arrive in Erbil to oversee repatriation of Filipino fatalities in hotel fire
Iraqi authorities at the lobby of the Capitol Hotel in Irbil. REUTERS
Filipino diplomats are now in Erbil in Iraq to help identity and arrange the repatriation of the remains of 14 Filipina hotel workers killed in a fire Saturday morning.
The team, headed by Elmer Cato, charge d’affaires of the Philippine Embassy in Baghdad, confirmed their arrival via Twitter. An aircraft provided by the United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq took the team to Irbil, the capital of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan.
A report by Al Jazeera said at least 21 people have been killed and dozens injured in the fire that gutted the Capitol Hotel on Gulan Street.
The governor of Erbil, Nawzad Hadi, initially told reporters at the scene that 15 of the victims were Filipinos who worked at a massage centre at the hotel. Some of the other victims were from Iraq and Palestine, he said.
According to officials, the fire started in the basement of the building and later spread to the spa area.
At least 10 firefighters were also taken to the hospital for treatment after suffering from intense smoke inhalation, the Al Jazeera report said.
"Grabe ito …We lost more people in one incident in one day compared to the number we lost since the Gulf War," Cato told GMA News Online before he left for Baghdad International Airport.