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MANILA, Philippines – Fire razed the decades-old Manila Central Post Office on Sunday, May 21, the Bureau of Fire Protection-National Capital Region (BFP-NCR) said.
The bureau said the fire started at 11:41 pm and continued until Tuesday morning.
The fire reached the general alarm – the highest fire alarm – at 5:54 am on Monday, May 22. General alarm means that it has affected “major parts of the area.”
The fire was declared under control at 7:22 am, around eight hours after the blaze started.
More than 30 hours after the blaze began, the BFP declared fire out at 6:33 am on Tuesday, May 23.
Seven were reported injured. Most of them were firefighters who experienced difficulty breathing and who suffered abrasions. The estimated cost of damage is P300 million, BFP said.
Manila Fire District Senior Superintendent Christine Cula said the fire started at the General Services Office located in the building’s basement. The exact cause of the fire, however, is still undetermined.
“Confined space siya so talagang mainit siya kaya mabilis yung pag-dry up ng materials kahit mag-bomba tayo ng tubig dahil sa init niya nag-e-evaporate yung tubig. Sa water talaga kailangan natin ng continuous supply ng water,” Cula said.
(It’s a confined space, so it’s really hot, that’s why the materials dry up quickly, even if we pump in water, the water would just evaporate because of the heat. We really need a continuous supply of water.)
BFP-NCR Director Nahum B. Tarroza said the light materials inside the building, such as letters and parcels, contributed to the intensity of the fire.
When asked if the building has water sprinklers, Philippine Postal Corporation Postmaster Luis Carlos said it had none since the building is old.
Cula said they will investigate if there were lapses on the part of the postal office.
Carlos said that the letters and parcels bound for Manila and outside it were “totally burned.” Some court letters and national IDs were also affected.
Carlos lamented what happened to the historical building which was declared an “Important Cultural Property” by the National Museum in 2018.
“It’s saddening. We have been housed here for the last how many years, how many decades already. I’ve been here for the last 23 years. It’s something we hope we can restore,” he said.
The postmaster “looks forward to it as reboot” to modernize Manila’s postal service.
The Manila Post Office is temporarily setting up a center at the Foreign Mail Distribution Service in Delpan, Manila.
Following the incident, Cula said they will intensify the inspection of buildings in Manila, especially those with historical significance.
“This is one of the historical sites in Manila so we will really intensify the inspection of all, not just historical buildings, but also government offices, as well as places of assembly which we do. Now, we will intensify the inspection of those which have historical value,” she said. – Rappler.com