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MANILA, Philippines (5th UPDATE) – A fire which began past midnight on Monday, May 28, at the Land Management Bureau (LMB) building has spread to neighboring structures, including the Juan Luna Building, which houses the administrative offices of the National Archives of the Philippines (NAP).
The structures are at Plaza Cervantes in Binondo, Manila, where a number of pre-war buildings stand.
Manila Fire District Senior Superintendent Jonas Silvano said the fire started at 12:36 am at the LMB, then to the 150 Plaza Cervantes building, then the Moraga Mansion, and lastly the NAP. More than 12 hours later, the fire is yet to be put under control.
According to Manila Fire District officers, firefighters on the ground had raised the alarm in the area to Task Force Charlie by 8:06 am.
Three medical incidents have been reported so far. Two firefighters – one from the Bureau of Fire Protection, and a volunteer – suffered hand lacerations. Another volunteer firefighter had difficulty in breathing.
The LMB, an attached agency of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, administers, surveys, manages, and disposes alienable and disposable lands. It has jurisdiction over government lands that are not under other agencies. (READ: Land titles, P100 million worth of equipment gone in Binondo fire)
The NAP is the agency mandated to keep documents – such as plans, civil records, notarial documents – from the Spanish and American colonial periods. The NAP, however, only has its administrative offices on the 3rd floor of the Juan Luna Building.
Silvano noted that no important archival documents were affected.
Jocelyn Reyes, OIC deputy executive director of National Archives building, confirmed that no important documents were affected by the fire. The building is used solely as an administration office, and all Spanish documents are stored in the National Library in Kalaw.
Reyes and some staff members of the NAB said they went to the building as early as 2:30 am upon hearing news that the LMB office was on fire to pack their things inside the building. All important documents, mostly financial records, were saved.
Only the 4th and 5th floors of the Luna building are badly affected. The NAP office is on the 3rd floor.
The 150 Plaza Cervantes building, meanwhile, houses a Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) branch and several offices of accounting firms, law firms, and insurance agencies.
In an advisory, BPI said its branch will be temporarily closed, but it assured clients that "documents and other properties within BPI Plaza Cervantes remain safe."
JUST IN: The National Archives of the Philippines admin office is burning. Heard that a lot of documents dating back to the Spanish colonial period are there. Imagine some of our historical memory lost forever. They had been warned before. Sigh. I weep. Photo frm Stephen Pamorada pic.twitter.com/rmHugF49fH — Kristoffer Pasion (@indiohistorian) May 28, 2018
As of 3:43 pm, fire has been declared under control. Only 15 of Manila’s firetrucks, from the initial 36, remain on scene.
he south-bound lane of Jones Bridge, from Binondo to Lawton, has been temporarily closed. – with reports from Rambo Talabong/Rappler.com