Qatar mall fire victim’s kin seek repatriation help

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Villaggio Mall, in Doha's west end, as a fire took hold of the upscale mall in the Qatari capital of Doha Monday May 28, 2012. Qatar's Interior Ministry said 13 children were among 19 people killed in a fire that broke out at one of the Gulf state's fanciest shopping mall on Monday. The Villaggio opened in 2006 and is one of Qatar's most popular shopping and amusement destinations. It includes an ice skating rink and indoor Venice-style gondola rides. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)

COTABATO CITY—Relatives of one of the three overseas Filipino workers (OFW) who perished in the mammoth Villaggio Mall fire in Doha, Qatar, have appealed to President Benigno Aquino III to help them bring her remains home as soon as possible.

Luzviminda Soco said her family did not have the means to transport back home the body of her niece Julie Ann Soco, 25, who worked as an assistant teacher at the Gympanzee Nursery School in the mall, a daycare center catering to the large expatriate community.

Soco was one of the three Filipino nursery teachers who died of smoke inhalation from the fire, according to Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Raul Hernandez. The two other casualties were identified as Maribel Orosco and Margie Yecyec.

The blaze killed 19 people, 13 of them children.

“We appeal to President Aquino to please help bring back home our modern heroes who fought loneliness and hard work for the sake of their families,” Luzviminda told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Soco, a resident of Barangay (village) Rosary Heights 2 here, was an undocumented OFW.

“She called through her mobile phone on Monday (May 28) afternoon appealing for help. ‘The mall is on fire, please help us. We will all die here.’ Those were her last words… we tried to call her back, to no avail,” Luzviminda said.

Julie Ann, an only daughter, reportedly left in early 2010 to work abroad. Her mother, also an OFW, works in Egypt.

“It’s only now that I learned she was undocumented. When I asked her about her deployment, she told me she was directly hired by a colleague who also hails from Cotabato City,” she said.

Amy Crisostomo, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration-ARMM OIC, said that since Soco did not go through the legal employment process, she cannot avail of any financial assistance from the government agency.

Investigators, meanwhile, are carrying out extensive probes through the fire-damaged sections of the mall, but authorities have not announced the cause of the fire. Findings from the state-ordered inquest are expected within a week. Edwin Fernandez, Inquirer Mindanao and AP

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