On 14 Filipinos dead in Iraq: ‘We’ll bring them home asap’
A three-member team from the Philippine embassy in Baghdad is on its way to Erbil in the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq to identify and repatriate the remains of 14 Filipinos killed in a hotel fire on Friday evening.
”Our priority is to identify the victims, inform their next of kin and bring them home as soon as possible,” Elmer Cato, charge d affaires of the Philippine embassy in Baghdad, told the Inquirer.
”We will also work closely with Kurdish authorities who are now investigating the cause of the fire,” said Cato, who is leading the mission with Vice Consul Andrei Bauzon and Attaché Manolito Ruedas.
The team is expected to arrive in Erbil, 370 kilometers from Baghdad, at 10 a.m. (3 p.m. Manila time).
Cato said the victims were mostly employees at the Capitol Hotel.
They don’t have the names of the victims yet, Cato said.
“We will have a clearer picture in a few hours,” Cato said.
Cato said that while there is a deployment ban on new workers in Iraq, there are many Filipinos working in the Kurdistan region because of relatively stable security situation and good working conditions.
Kurdistan is under alert level 1 because of stable security situation unlike rest of Iraq which remains under level 4, he said.
“Although ban in deployment of new workers is in effect, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Kurdistan can go home and return to their jobs unlike those in other parts of Iraq,” he said.
He said Filipinos work as engineers, nurses, office administrators and staff, hotel and restaurant workers, and some household service workers. He said OFWs there are paid and treated better than in other parts.
Cato said he is counting on the help of the Kurdistan regional government for the speedy repatriation of the remains of the victims. RAM/CDG
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