PH driver among 23 killed in Saudi blast—DFA | Global News

PH driver among 23 killed in Saudi blast—DFA

By: - Reporter / @JeromeAningINQ
/ 04:25 AM November 03, 2012

DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez. CATHY MIRANDA/ FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has confirmed that an overseas Filipino worker was among the 23 people killed in a tanker explosion in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Thursday.

The charred remains of Florentino Santiago, a truck driver, were positively identified by his brother-in-law and another worker in the tractor company where they were employed, DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez said.


Eight other Filipinos working for the tractor company, whose warehouse was flattened by the explosion, were among the injured.

According to his brother-in-law, Santiago was resting inside a trailer truck when it was struck by flames and debris from the explosion.


Jocelyn, Santiago’s wife, said she could not believe her husband was dead, as she spoke to him on Wednesday night, just hours before the accident. (See related story).

She said her husband left for Saudi Arabia in April and was planning on taking a vacation in March for the high school graduation of their eldest child.

Santiago’s remains are now in the Riyadh Central Mortuary at Shumaisi Hospital, Hernandez told reporters in a text message.



Tanker driver blamed

The Saudi civil defense department said a gas tanker hit the Khureis Road flyover in eastern Riyadh on Thursday, causing a gas leak and an explosion in the Zahid Tractor company’s showroom and warehouse and setting fire to nearby vehicles, according to the state news agency SPA.

State-owned Ekhbariya television news channel reported that the death toll had risen to 23 and emergency workers were still searching the collapsed building for more victims or survivors. Health ministry spokesperson Saad al-Qahtani said 135 people were injured, mostly men and including some foreigners.


“The tanker driver was surprised by a road accident on its route, causing it to crash into one of the pillars of the bridge,” spokesperson Capt. Mohamed Hubail Hammadi said.

The civil defense chief, Saed al-Tweijri, said the fire had been brought under control. He blamed the tanker driver for the accident.

13 Filipinos injured


According to the DFA, 13 Filipinos were injured, by the latest count, but there could be more.

Hernandez said 10 Filipinos, including the eight earlier mentioned, were confined in four hospitals in Riyadh. Their injuries included arm fractures, facial and eye wounds, bleeding ear, and head trauma. Three of the injured were earlier discharged, he said.

Except for one OFW confined at National Guard Hospital who is reported to be in critical condition and remains under observation, all the other injured Filipinos are in stable condition, Hernandez said.

“The embassy is monitoring their condition and is in touch with their employers to make sure that all necessary assistance and care are given to them. The embassy is also coordinating with the employer of Mr. Santiago and his family for his repatriation,” Hernandez said.

Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Ezzedin Tago said in a radio interview that the hospitalized OFWs were documented workers and therefore covered by medical insurance paid for by their employers.

“We are coordinating with their employers to ensure that they are well assisted while they’re at the hospital. We will coordinate with employers in case there are issues,” he said.

Tago also said Saudi authorities had confirmed that the tanker explosion was not a terrorist act.

Although the incident took place near the headquarters of Saudi Arabian National Guard and Prince Nayef Arab University for Security Studies, officials speaking on state television said it was an accident.

Neither the guards’ complex nor the security university appeared to be damaged in the blast, which flattened a showroom for tractors, bulldozers and other industrial vehicles as well as damaging a busy flyover.

United States ally Saudi Arabia is seen as a prime target for the al-Qaida branch based in neighboring Yemen but the last successful attack in the conservative Islamic kingdom was in 2006.

Riyadh has cracked down on Islamist militants over the past decade, detaining thousands of suspects.


Flattened by blast

The Zahid Tractor warehouse, several stories high, was leveled by the blast, which also caused severe damage to neighboring buildings. Rubble, twisted metal and shattered glass littered a wide stretch of the surrounding area.

“I was inside the building when the blast came. Then boom, the building collapsed. Furniture, chairs and cabinets blasted into the room I was in,” said survivor Kushnoo Akhtar, a 55-year-old Pakistani worker, who was covered in dirt and bleeding from multiple cuts on his face and hands.

“My brother is still inside under the rubble. There are lots of people in there,” he said.

The blast at around 7:20 a.m. local time, occurred on one of the capital’s busiest roads but because Saudi Arabia is still observing the Eid al-Adha holiday, traffic was lighter than normal.

An hour after the explosion, fires still raged in cars and trucks nearby and a column of black smoke billowed over the area.

By Thursday evening, state television was still showing a large emergency operation at the site as workers picked through the flattened building with the aid of digging machinery.

Dozens of burned-out vehicles surrounded the scene of the blast, including a small bus and other cars on top of the flyover, which was left buckled by the explosion.

Television footage and pictures posted on social media showed a body lying beside smoking vehicles and at least two charred bodies seated in a car. Another blackened corpse was visible in the remains of a truck.

More than 100 emergency personnel were combing through the wreckage on the flyover and searching for victims in the rubble of the building, one of two Riyadh outlets listed on the website of Zahid Tractor & Heavy Machinery Co. With a report from Reuters

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TAGS: Department of Foreign Affairs, Florentino Santiago, overseas Filipino worker, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
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