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Manila, the Philippines’ capital, is the most densely populated city in the world. Over the years, its population has swelled as people have arrived from the countryside seeking a better life, but most end up not being able to find much work and remain in poverty. Because of this, many end up in the city’s overcrowded and blighted slums, where dangers such as exposed wiring are commonplace. The slums are prone to fires that can be calamitous.
According to Reuters, there have been 2,200 fires in Manila this year, and most have ignited in the city’s slums. With no real building or fire codes to speak of, the slums are tinderboxes waiting for disaster to strike. Many homes are built of plywood and exposed electrical wires are everywhere. According to Reuters, the fires are mainly caused by faulty electrical connections, unattended stoves and discarded cigarette butts.
The city’s firefighters face all kinds of obstacles to getting the fires out. Firetrucks have to be piloted through narrow streets choked with cars and food carts. And because of the makeshift manner in which the slums are built, the fires can spread quickly, wreaking havoc on people’s homes and often leaving them with very little once the fires have been extinguished. People gather whatever is left and rebuild, but the dwellings they remake are just as flammable as before.
Reuters photographer Erik De Castro recently spent some time in the slums, documenting how people, including firefighters, deal with disaster when it hits. Here’s what he saw.
In Sight is The Washington Post’s photography blog for visual narrative. This platform showcases compelling and diverse imagery from staff and freelance photographers, news agencies and archives. If you are interested in submitting a story to In Sight, please complete this form.
Kenneth Dickerman is a photo editor. He previously worked as a photo editor at MSN in Seattle and TIME in New York City. Before that, he worked as a freelance photographer specializing in politics and conflict and his work appeared in The New York Times, TIME and US News & World Report among other publications.
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