Manila Central Post Office fire declared out after over 30 hours

MANILA. A gardener waters plants as smoke billows from the still smoldering Manila Central Post Office after it caught fire early Monday, May 22, 2023, in Manila, Philippines. (AP)
MANILA. A gardener waters plants as smoke billows from the still smoldering Manila Central Post Office after it caught fire early Monday, May 22, 2023, in Manila, Philippines. (AP)

AFTER over 30 hours of battling the massive blaze, the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) declared out on Tuesday, May 23, 2023, the fire that gutted the Manila Central Post Office (MCPO).

The BFP declared the fire out at 6:33 a.m. Tuesday.

It said 15 individuals, mostly firefighters, were injured in the incident.

They sustained wounds, lacerations, and first-degree burns.

Due to the severity of the fire, some even experienced dizziness and chest pain but were immediately treated.

In a television interview, Manila Fire District chief of Intelligence and Investigation Division Senior Inspector Alejandro Ramos said they made sure that the fire will no longer recur.

He said the lack of proper ventilation in the basement was one of the challenges the firefighters faced during the operation.

“The difficulties dun is the heat in the basement was confined so the basement was very hot, nahirapan kami pasukin (we had difficulty entering the basement). Walang problema dun sa usok, yun lang talaga (It’s the heat, not the smoke)," he said.

Ramos said the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

The fire started around 11:40 p.m. Sunday, May 21, in the basement of the MCPO in Liwasang Bonifacio. The almost century-old building was burned from the basement all the way to the fifth floor.

It has reached general alarm, the highest fire alarm level that requires all the fire trucks in the region to respond on Monday morning, May 22.

The BFP said the cost of damage was estimated at around P300 million.

Philippine Postal Corporation (PHLPost) Postmaster General Luis Carlos said all the artifacts, stamps and important records of the post office “for quite some time” were destroyed by the fire.

He said they are looking into indemnity for the burned parcels.

"Some of the records have been up in the Cloud. Yung iba naman nakuha naming (We were able to retrieve some) it’s on a film, and some of those records are in the region, in area 4, in Region 4. So meron namang mga natabing records (So we were able to save some records)," he said.

Carlos said that temporarily, their operations will be moved to the Foreign Surface Mail Distribution Center building, while corporate offices will be transferred to the building beside the burned establishment, as well as in the canteen area.

Philippine Statistics Authority head Undersecretary Dennis Mapa said the delivery of the national IDs in Metro Manila will be affected by the incident.

Manila Mayor Honey Lacuña vowed, though, to ensure the restoration of the MCPO, noting that it has been declared as an important cultural property in 2018 and a heritage zone.

She said no other infrastructure can be built in the area amid concerns that it was intentionally burned over other construction projects.

Senate finance committee chairman Sonny Angara said as directed by Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, they will work with the Department of Budget and Management to look for funds for the restoration of the MCPO.

Senator Robin Padilla has filed a resolution seeking the conduct of a Senate probe into the fire and to come up with measures to preserve and protect the country’s cultural properties.

“The Manila Central Post Office is a tangible representation of the nation’s culture and history, and its damage is a blow to the country’s cultural heritage,” he said.

“The recent incident underscores the vulnerability of our national cultural heritage to fire and other hazards and highlights the urgent need to revisit and assess the effectiveness of existing preservation and protection measures,” he added.

Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda, chairman of the Senate culture and the arts panel, urged authorities to investigate the cause of the fire to prevent such an incident from happening again. (SunStar Philippines)


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