MANILA – A Philippine National Police (PNP) official said today that the number of fatalities in the Resort World Manila assault last night has gone up to 37.
The dead included the lone male attacker who set himself on fire inside one of the rooms of the hotel-casino located across the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 in Pasay City, Metro Manila.
National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) director Chief Superintendent Oscar Albayalde said during a press briefing in Malacañang presidential palace that “victims who suffered suffocation already went to 36, plus the suspect, that makes the body count to 37.”
Albayalde also said most of the fatalities were in the gaming area at the second floor of Resorts World Manila.
He also said they will look into why the hotel-casino’s sprinkler system failed to activate as smoke filled the second and third floors of the establishment.
Southern Police District (SPD) director Chief Superintendent Tomas Apolinario, on the other hand, said in a TV interview that “most of the victims were women who were found dead inside the bathroom.”
Earlier news reports quoted Philippine Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) personnel as saying that 34 bodies were found in two floors of the Resorts World Manila. The ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) reported that firemen recovered 20 bodies from the second floor and 14 others from the third floor.
The Resorts World Manila management issued a statement saying that 35 people were killed and that “initial unconfirmed reports indicated that the deaths were caused by smoke inhalation.”
“We cannot release information on the identities of the victims at this time as we are awaiting SOCO’s final confirmation,” the hotel-casino said, adding that the management will inform the families of the victims as soon as they get the names.
Radio station Radyo Inquirer 990AM reported that of the 35 fatalities, 22 were hotel or casino guests while 13 were employees.
Meanwhile, PNP chief Gen. Ronald Dela Rosa said the lone attacker is dead after setting himself on fire inside one of the rooms of the hotel complex.
De la Rosa, who earlier said the attacker was killed after resisting arrest, corrected himself and told reporters: “He’s dead. He burned himself inside the hotel in Room 510. He was burned beyond recognition.”
Dela Rosa had described the attacker as a Caucasian man and about six feet tall. His identity has been determined but the police did not disclose his name.
The SITE Intelligence Group said the Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the attack but Dela Rosa rejected the report. “It’s too early to conclude, it’s too early to tell. There is no indication that ISIS (is involved). He could have shot the gamblers there or set off a bomb.”
The PNP is looking at robbery as motive for the attack, claiming that the gunman stole 113 million pesos worth of casino chips prior to the assault.
Dela Rosa said the attacker, carrying an M14 rifle, entered the casino at the second floor of Resorts World Manila, shot at a LED TV, fired several shots at the storage room, and set the gambling tables on fire. Explosions were also heard during the attack.
The assault led to a lockdown of the hotel complex.
The Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) initially reported that 25 people were hurt in the attack.
Dela Rosa said they counted 54 injured people. Speaking in Filipino, he said: “The victims reached 54. Fifty-four people were brought to the hospital. Eighteen of them were confined, the others just had slight, minor injuries.”
He also said those injured were hurt after getting caught in a stampede after hearing gunshots and explosions.
Meanwhile, Resorts World Manila expressed “deep regret” over what happened last night.
In a post on social media, Resorts World Manila corporate communications director Owen Cammayo said: “It is with deep regret that we have been informed of several casualties, the number and identities of whom have yet to be determined. As soon as this information becomes available, we shall be informing their loved ones.”
“We ask for your understanding during this difficult time. This cowardly act of a deranged mind will not defeat the spirit on which Resorts World Manila was built. With your prayers, we will overcome this tragedy,” Cammayo also said.
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