‘Like using a syringe to douse an inferno’

(PNA photo by Yancy Lim)

A Bureau of Fire Protection official yesterday admitted that the Manila Central Post Office fire that gutted the historic building constructed in 1926 was too hot to handle.

BFP National Capital Region director Chief Supt. Nahum Tarroza told reporters that early in their battle to contain the 30-hour blaze, it was like “using a syringe” to douse an inferno.

In a mix of Filipino and English, Tarroza said the Central Post Office blaze was characterized by intense heat with the old and dense wood in the building serving as firewood.

“The materials used in the main building were antique wood like molave and narra, and the heat from them was so intense that the fire burned adjacent structures,” Tarroza explained.

While property damage could reach P500 million, Tarroza said the loss of the “important cultural property” may not be measured in mere pesos.

The building also sustained fire damage during the Liberation of Manila at the end of World War 2 and was rebuilt in 1946.

The fire started at the basement and quickly spread to the higher floors of the main building, eventually reaching even the canteen six meters away from the main building, the BFP official said.

Six service vehicles of the Philippine Postal Corporation were damaged by the fire, authorities said.

Meanwhile, Manila Mayor Honey Lacuna sought to douse water on social media insinuating that the fire was set intentionally to pave the way for the construction of a commercial building in place of the Central Post Office (See related story on page 8).

The blaze started in a confined space, the basement, thus firefighters who lacked breathing apparatus failed to stop it from becoming a conflagration, according to first responders.

Fifteen people, most of them firefighters responding to the highest “general alarm” issued by the BFP, were injured, including some who sustained lacerations and others who complained of dizziness and chest pain from smoke inhalation.

Sources told Daily Tribune that the Central Post Office building did not have sprinklers.

The Government Service Insurance System on Tuesday said the Philippine Postal Corporation may get as much as P600 million in insurance coverage from its adjuster after a damage assessment.

The GSIS also expressed readiness to provide PhilPost a temporary office from the many foreclosed properties it has.

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