A pre-dawn fire in the Philippines raced through public market stalls, killing 15 people, including six children, who were sleeping there to be up early for the weekend crowds.
Thirteen other people were injured in the three-hour blaze in Zamboanga city, a major port about 540 miles south of Manila, the capital.
It apparently started when sparks from low-slung electric post cables set fire to pavement stall umbrellas then ignited stacks of used clothing being sold at the city market, said police Senior Superintendent Angelito Casimiro.
The victims were clothes sellers who slept at their stalls, including at least six children, so they could be up early for the weekend market that usually draws large crowds, said police investigator Rafael Salcedo.
“One vendor saw the electrical sparks set a stall umbrella on fire, but many were asleep and the others thought somebody was just playing a prank until the fire started to spread,” he said.
The victims’ bodies were taken to a nearby Muslim mosque prior to burial, he said.
Firefighters, who have been on alert along with police for All Saints’ Day ceremonies in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation, prevented the blaze from spreading to nearby commercial buildings.
Mr Salcedo said that daily blackouts might have caused power fluctuations, but Bureau of Fire investigators would decide whether officers in charge of fire safety could be criminally liable.
Dilapidated buildings, a lack of adequate fire safety systems and inspectors, and weak enforcement of fire safety regulations have contributed to many fires in the Philippines.
In 1996, a disco fire killed 162 people, mostly students celebrating the end of the school year in one of the deadliest nightclub fires in the world.