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Manila hotel inferno kills 75 people

QUEZON CITY, Philippines -- At least 75 people have been confirmed dead after a fire gutted a six-storey hotel in suburban Manila.

The death toll from the fire, which broke out about at about 4 a.m. Saturday local time, may still rise with emergency services still recovering bodies at the site of the tragedy in the suburb of Quezon City.

Scores of unconscious victims have been rushed to various hospitals in the area, Quezon City police said.

Many of the dead were among more than 170 members of the Christian group God's Flock who had traveled to the city to attend a national fellowship gathering ending on Saturday, police added.

Suffocation, burns

Journalist Luchi Cruz Valdez reports many of the victims died in their rooms as they tried to take shelter from the smoke
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Video footage from local television station ABS-CBN showed that whole families had died from suffocation, still lying on their mattresses in crowded rooms. Others died from severe burns.

Firemen used a buzz saw to free survivors through iron-grilled windows on the upper floors.

Inspectors had found the Hotel Manor unsafe months ago and had given the owner a "grace period of 15 to 30 days" to rectify building code violations, interior and local government secretary Jose Lina said.

Police said initial findings pointed to faulty electrical wiring.

Guests reported hearing an explosion on the third floor before the fire began. Fire officials refused to speculate on what may have caused the blaze.

Thick smoke prevented many hotel guests from reaching fire exits and metal grills covered windows of the hotel.

Police said the hotel was found to lack fire exits and emergency lights, and apparently had fire alarms that were out of order.

Windows blocked

More people could have survived if the grilled hotel room windows could be opened, said fire marshall Col. Jacinto Dequito.

"Charges will be filed if the violations have been identified ... which could be likened to homicide or murder," Secretary Lina said.

Lina added that the Bureau of Fire Inspection has been ordered to investigate the cause of the fire.

The former Quezon City mayor and vice mayor were sued for official negligence years earlier after a disco fire killed scores of students celebrating their graduation.

-- Journalists Rufi Vigilar and Luchi Cruz Valdez contributed to this report.

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