26 dead in Philippines movie theater collapse


MANILA, Philippines -- The roof of a six-story movie palace under construction on rush orders from First Lady Imelda Marcos collapsed Tuesday, and workers said 26 people were killed and dozens more trapped under tons of debris.

Rescue workers feared at least 30 people were buried under what was to have been the main theater in an extravagant film center Mrs. Marcos ordered built on reclaimed land for an international film festival in January.


Workers said they recovered 24 bodies immediately after the structure collapsed at 2:00 a.m., hurling concrete slabs, wooden scaffolding and steel girders on top of night shift laborers on the project, which faces Manila Bay. Two more bodies were dug out later.

Hospital sources said 41 other people were injured.

Despite the workers' count of dead, the government reported after a 15-hour news blackout that only three people died and 34 were injured in the disaster.

Highways and Public Works Minister Jesus Hipolito, who was on the team that designed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge tunnel, said the building 'remains structurally sound and incidents similar to what happened this morning are considered normal risks.'

Mrs. Marcos, wife of President Ferdinand Marcos, ordered construction of the two-level film center for the International Film Festival scheduled Jan. 18-29.


During a recent trip to the United States, Mrs. Marcos invited such film stars as Robert Redford, Charlton Heston, Sophia Loren, Ali Mcgraw and Faye Dunaway to attend the event.

About 1,500 laborers have been working around the clock since the project was started in August. Engineers said more than 120 people were pouring concrete on the roof when it caved in.

Foreman Isidro Villanueva said 60 of the 120 people assigned to work on the roof had not signed out as of Tuesday evening, but he could not say whether they were among the casualties.

'I told them they cannot cover the entire roof in one cement pouring,' said Dominador Cruz, one of the survivors who was hospitalized.

Cruz said another section of the project caved in a week ago, but no one was injured in the accident.

'We never knew what happened,' said carpenter Roque Andawaya. 'We just heard a roar that sounded like thunder and then the earth shook.'

Witnesses said many escaped unhurt by hanging on the beams and the jutting steel bars.

The film center stands in the cultural center complex which also was constructed in record time on reclaimed land. Several buildings have cracked as the earth under the foundations settled, according to engineers.


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