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Philippine church collapse kills at least 1, injures 53

Second floor gives way in packed San Jose del Monte City church during Ash Wednesday Mass
Rescuers wait to take injured churchgoers to a hospital after the second floor of St. Peter Apostle Church in San Jose del Monte City in the Philippines collapsed during an Ash Wednesday Mass on Feb. 14.

Rescuers wait to take injured churchgoers to a hospital after the second floor of St. Peter Apostle Church in San Jose del Monte City in the Philippines collapsed during an Ash Wednesday Mass on Feb. 14. (Photo: San Jose del Monte Public Information Office)

Published: February 14, 2024 08:12 AM GMT
Updated: February 16, 2024 05:56 AM GMT

At least one person died and 53 were injured when part of the second floor of a Catholic church collapsed during a packed Ash Wednesday Mass in Bulacan province in the Philippines.

The accident occurred at St. Peter Apostle Church in San Jose del Monte City, about 47 kilometers northeast of the capital Manila, during the middle of the liturgy, local officials said.

City mayor Arthur Robes named the victim as Luneta Morales, an 80-year-old grandmother and a member of the church choir, who died in hospital.

“Others have returned home after having their wounds cleaned and prescribed medicine. Some others are under observation,” Robes said after visiting the site.

Videos posted on social media showed chaotic scenes in the church as the second floor crumbled and fell on churchgoers as they queued to have ash applied to their foreheads. Many of them were screaming and stumbling as they rushed to escape from the church.

The injured were rushed to a local hospital for treatment of injuries, Mayor Robes said.

“The local government has also covered all the medical expenses of the injured,” Robes wrote on his Facebook page.

City Building officials have also conducted a damage assessment at the church, while the mayor has ordered Mass not to be held there for the time being.

City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office head Gina Ayson said the injured suffered only minor bruises.

“The church structure is somewhat old, but it has undergone past renovations. The same goes for the church's mezzanine area,” Ayson was quoted as saying by the state-run Philippine News Agency on Feb. 14.

She said that the mezzanine’s floor was made of wood, which might have collapsed due to a large number of churchgoers occupying the second-floor area.

Building officials discovered that a portion of the collapsed structure was also infested with termites, Ayson told reporters after the assessment.

Some 400 people were reportedly attending the Mass in the church, which was established in 1994, media reports say.

Meanwhile, a top Church official in Malolos diocese has told parish priests to examine their respective church buildings following the tragedy.

“City authorities are currently investigating the incident and the parish church is closed until further notice. I have also instructed all parish priests to check their parish structures considering the great number of faithful coming every year to Lenten celebrations,” Bishop Dennis Villarojo of Malolos  said shortly after the accident.

Those affected and their families were being assisted by the parish priest Romulo Perez and his parochial vicar, Father Divino Cayanan, and by the diocese, the bishop said in a statement.

Millions of people in the Catholic-majority Philippines flock to churches on Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent in the Catholic Church and other Christian denominations.

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