OWWA assists family of OFW accident victim in Italy

July 23, 2010 10:43 pm 

MANILA, July 23 — Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda D. Baldoz on Friday quickly responded to an OFW family in distress by directing the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to provide immediate assistance after the family’s head, overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Procopio de la Cruz, died in a bus accident in Italy the other day.

Baldoz also directed the OFW welfare agency to immediately coordinate with the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Milan, Italy, to ascertain what other assistance the OWWA can give the OFW’s family.

She also directed the OWWA and POLO to look into the conditions of 64 Filipino passengers of the bus, 18 of whom suffered from smoke inhalation, with a 19-year old Filipina in serious condition as a result of the fire

OWWA Administrator Carmelita S. Dimzon promptly responded to the directive. She ordered the release of the benefits due OFW de la Cruz as an OWWA member.

At the same time, she said her office will closely coordinate with the POLO and the Philippine Consulate in Milan to extend the necessary humanitarian and other assistance possible to the other victims of the bus accident.

Under OWWA rules, OFW dela Cruz, is entitled to life insurance for the duration of his employment contract and the coverage includes, P200,000.00 for his accidental death, and a burial assistance benefit of P20,000.00.

Based on a report furnished the labor and employment chief, OFW de la Cruz, 50, suffocated when a tourist bus he was riding in with 64 other Filipinos caught fire as it entered a tunnel between the towns of Varazze and Celle Ligure en route from Milan to a coastal resort in Alassio, Genova in Italy.

Philippine Consul General to Milan, Antonio A. Morales, had apprised Baldoz that the Consulate had already visited and assisted the victims of the accident who were brought to different hospitals in Italy.

Morales cited onsite reports that the fire on board the ill-fated bus, probably caused by an electrical short circuit, started while it was entering the tunnel, resulting in the death of the OFW and injuries to the 18 others.

He said that while one of the passengers sounded the alarm on the spreading smoke and fire, the driver of the two-decker tourist bus was constrained to drive on until past the tunnel, but immediately stopped and opened the door to let all the passengers out.

Unfortunately, due to heavy smoke, the bus’s second level was impossible to enter. Responding firemen, however, successfully put out the fire, but found the body of dela Cruz under one of the bus seats.

Morales further cited reports that during the incident, the panicking passengers could not break open the glass windows despite the availability of emergency hammers inside the bus.

He said that the other Filipino passengers who suffered from severe suffocation or smoke inhalation were immediately brought to different hospitals in the towns of Savona, Votri and Pietra Ligure, while the young girl in critical condition was airlifted to a hospital in Genova, Italy.

For feedback and inquiries on the assistance process, the next of kin of the OFWs, as well as the public, may get in touch with the OWWA 24/7 Operations Center located at the OWWA Building, F.B. Harrison cor. 7th Street, Pasay City, Philippines, at tel. nos. +633.833-6992 (833-OWWA), +632.551-6641, +632.551-1560, +632.8917601–24, +632.551-6641, Globe HOTLINE 291 Press 3 for OWWA, TXT +63917.898.6992, telefax +632.804-0638, +632.551-6651, and e-mail at opcenter@owwa.gov.phor owwa.opcenter@yahoo.com (PNA) LOR/pr/rsm

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