A fire has left no fewer than 25,000 people homeless in a town on a Southern Philippine island known as a stronghold of Islamic State-allied militants, officials said on Wednesday.
According to Mayor Kerkhar Tan, the huge blaze gutted no less than 3,500 houses in two seaside communities in Jolo town, 1,000 kilometres south of Manila.
“No casualties have so far been reported from the fire, which was the biggest in Jolo since 1974 when intense battles between government troops and Muslim separatist rebels left the town in ruins,’’ Tan said.
Initial investigation showed the fire began from a coffee shop and quickly spread to houses made of light materials in the village of Busbus and Walled City.
Jolo Island is known as a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf group, which has been blamed for some of the worst terrorist attacks in the Philippines.
The group’s leader, Isnilon Hapilon, was killed last year in Marawi City, where hundreds of Islamic State-allied militants launched a siege for five months.
More than 1,200 people, including no fewer than 47 civilians, were killed in the Marawi conflict which left the Islamic city in ruins.
An estimated 230,000 residents are still displaced from their homes in Marawi and some adjacent towns.