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UPDATE 1 – Gunman sets fire at Philippines resort, killing at least 36

A man armed with a rifle has opened fire inside a casino at Resorts World Manila in the Philippines, causing mass panic and setting fires as he stole chips worth millions of dollars, officials say. At least 36 people were killed.

The incident began just after midnight local time on Friday when a man started shooting at LCD screens before setting multiple casino tables on fire. He also filled a backpack with casino chips worth an estimated 130 million Philippine Pesos ($2.6 million).

The gunfire caused mass panic and smoke from the fire reduced visibility to zero, forcing some people to jump from windows in desperate attempts to escape. A large number of security forces responded to the scene and began looking for the gunman.

Philippine National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa confirmed just after 6:30 a.m. that the gunman had committed suicide. The resort later said in a statement that the suspect apparently set himself on fire inside one of the hotel rooms before fatally shooting himself.

The bodies of at least 36 victims have been recovered across several floors of the building. The victims - most of them women - are believed to have died of suffocation, said Tomas Apolinario, the head of the Southern Police District. It's unclear if they died in the stampede or as a result of smoke.

"We have zero visibility and thick smoke still on the floors so we have to be very careful with every move," a police statement said.

A total of 54 people were treated for injuries, though most were minor and only 18 people had to be hospitalized. All of the victims were injured as a result of the ensuing panic, with the exception of a security guard who suffered a "slight" gunshot wound when he or she accidentally shot themselves.

Manila Police Chief Oscar Albayalde said the suspect is believed to have been a gambling addict who "went crazy" after losing money. He said there was no indication of a link to terrorism, despite an earlier claim from an ISIS militant who said the group was responsible.

"We ask for your understanding during this difficult time," the resort's owner, Travellers International Hotel Group, said in a statement. "This cowardly act of a deranged mind will not defeat the spirit on which Resorts World Manila was built. With your prayers, we will overcome this tragedy."

Resorts World Manila, which is located right outside Ninoy Aquino International Airport, has four hotels, casino gaming areas, a shopping mall, cinemas, restaurants, and other services. Operations at the airport were suspended for several hours but have since resumed.

(Copyright 2015 by BNO News B.V. All rights reserved. Info: sales@bnonews.com.)

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