75 people,  mostly participants at a weekend conference organized by Christian evangelists,  Vatican radio reported.

Television footage showed people clustering at windows of the five story Quezon City Manor House as firemen swarmed up ladders in a desperate  attempt to rescue them and to search for the missing,  including a pastor and his wife.

General Francisco Senot, director of the Bureau of Fire Protection,  told the Reuters news agency that rescue work was made difficult because his men found "obstructions to some fire escapes."  Local media said that some of the fire escapes were locked and that the hotel lacked emergency lighting,  despite recent warnings from local officials that it had violated some building codes.


Local authorities announced that they would treat the blaze as a "homicide case." The fire began apparently around 4 am local time in a third-floor karaoke bar and restaurant,   just as steady rain from a tropical depression began to ease,  rescue workers told Reuters.

"We saw a lot of dead in bathrooms," said Colonel Jacinto Dequiatco, a senior fire officer. "One submerged his face in a toilet bowl. You can see black soot in the noses of those who died. So there you can see they died of suffocation."

Most of the victims were believed to be Filipino Christians,  and there were no word reports of any foreigners in the hotel, located in a lower middle-class area far from the capital’s tourist districts.  Local police officials said that many of the dead had traveled to the city to attend a national fellowship gathering ending on Saturday.

Eugene Schwebler, a 60-year-old American citizen, told the Associated Press news agency that 160 people from the US based missionary group Missionary Evangelists Philippines-World were staying at the hotel.


"There were 160 people in our group. I don’t know how many came out. The lights went out and we heard people screaming,"  Schwebler was quoted as saying.  "Lord, Lord, I was hoping to see them alive, but they are all dead, said Eleanor Schofield,  who narrowly survived the blaze.  Fire fighters mentioned however to rescue up to two dozen people,  but many more were still missing,  local media said.

This is the second tragedy to hit Manila’s Quezon City suburb.  In march 1996,  at least 150 people were killed in a Manila discotheque fire , also in the Quezon City district.



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