By Restituto Cayubit
HILONGOS, Leyte – At least 32 persons watching an amateur boxing bout were injured in an explosion at the town plaza Wednesday night.
Leyte police provincial director Supt. Franco Simborio said out of the 32 injured, 16 were treated as outpatient while the remaining 16 were brought to various hospitals in Hilongos, Baybay, and Tacloban City.
Simborio added that they found two improvised explosive devices (IED) were used, both 81-mm mortar shells. The first one exploded at around 9:01 p.m. The second one exploded 30 seconds after the first blast but was in “low order,” meaning it did not completely explode.
Hilongos Mayor Alberto Villahermosa said the injured have all been brought to the hospital and that there were no reported deaths. Police and military personnel have been deployed to the blast site.
“The two bombs used had a strong magnitude that may have killed a lot of people when exploded at the same time,” said Simborio, who was at the crime scene few hours after the incident.
The plaza packed with about 500 audience, was just across the municipal hall and local police station. The boxing event is part of the town’s fiesta celebration.
Simborio believed that the bombing could be an act of retaliation from an arrested drug suspect, although the terrorism angle is still being investigated.
“We didn’t expect this. There was no bomb threat prior to this incident. We were caught by surprise when this happened since we are a peace loving town,” Villahermosa said.The mayor also believed that this could be retaliation of their campaign against criminality, resulting to the arrest of Muslims involved in car theft, illegal drugs and production of fake money.
“I’m not blaming Muslim residents in our town as suspect in the bombing, but we’re looking at all possibilities,” the mayor added.
At least four victims were referred to the Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center (EVRMC) in Tacloban City and one to the Living Hope Hospital in Maasin City in Southern Leyte. Most of the victims suffered foot injuries
At least 46 Department of Health doctors and medical volunteers from nearby towns rushed to this town to assist the victims.
Antonina Ruiz Dapile, local chief doctor said the 25-bed capacity Hilongos District Hospital has accommodated 40 patients after the blast.
Among the victims is Domingo Liba, 60 who said that he must have been dead had the second bomb exploded. Following the first blast, he carried his wounded son who suffered left leg bone injury. The son is now at EVRMC.
Four of his family members – three children and a grandchild – were wounded.
Also hurt was Jesyl Managbanag, 26 who is five-month pregnant and is being treated at the local hospital due to minor injuries. Her baby is already safe.
The police have been reviewing the recorded CCTV footage for possible identification of the suspects. Follow up investigation is still ongoing.
Hilongos town is about 152 kilometers south of Tacloban City, the regional capital. It is a second class town in Leyte with regular daily ferry trips to Cebu and Bohol. (With report from PNA)