9 convicted in Manila disco fire that killed 162
A Philippine court convicted nine people for graft yesterday over a 1996 nightclub fire that killed 162 people, mostly students celebrating the end of the school year.
The Sandiganbayan anti-graft court convicted seven former city engineering officials of suburban Quezon City and two operators of the Ozone disco and handed out sentences of up to 10 years.
About 400 people were packed in the disco when the fire broke out, but many were unable to escape because the emergency exit was blocked by a new building next door.
Ninety-three others were injured in the blaze, one of the biggest nightclub fires in the world in the last 20 years.
The court disqualified the former city officials from ever holding public office for approving the nightclub's building permit despite non-compliance with the building code, and giving preferential treatment to the disco's operators.
Stephen Santos, president of a group of the fire survivors, welcomed the court decision but lamented that the verdict took 18 years, in an interview with local television network ANC. He said he was afraid some of those convicted may have already left the country.