15 hurt in Manila Post Office fire, damage may exceed P500-M: BFP

2023 May 23

LAST MAN STANDING. The 48-year-old Mr. Postman statue of the fire-razed Manila Central Post Office in Liwasang Bonifacio seems to guard whatever valuables are left inside the neoclassical building on Tuesday (May 23, 2023). Damage is initially placed at PHP300 million, including letters, court documents and parcels, after the blaze that started shortly before midnight Sunday (May 21) and placed under control at about 7:22 a.m. the following day. 

MANILA – A total of 15 persons, mostly firefighters, were wounded in the fire that gutted the iconic Manila Central Post Office on Sunday night, an official of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) said on Tuesday.

In a radio interview, BFP – National Capital Region (NCR) Director, Fire Chief Supt. Nahum Tarroza, said the section of the gutted Manila Central Post Office building that was made of antique hardwood caused unbearable and extreme heat that engulfed even the adjacent structures inside the compound.

“Fifteen ang ating injuries – 13 bumbero at two volunteer(s). Ito ay mga napaso, mga nahulugan ng mga debris kasi nahuhulog from 3rd floor yung mga ibang debris, (We have 15 injuries – 13 firefighters and two volunteers. They sustained burns or got hit by debris falling from the 3rd floor),” Tarroza said.

He recalled that the firefighters were unable to immediately enter the burning structure as the fire at the Manila Central Post Office building was in a “confined space.”

Comparing a syringe trying to put out a huge fire, Tarroza noted that it was difficult to deal with the blaze due to the extreme heat that made it unbearable for the firefighters to extinguish.

He said the blaze even reached the canteen, which was six meters away from the main building of the post office.

Five to six service vehicles were also damaged during the fire.

Tarroza said the estimated PHP300 million to PHP500 million cost of damage may still soar as the antique materials at the historic post office are considered an “important cultural property.”

Yung materyales sa loob ng main building yan ay yari sa lumang kahoy, molave, narra. Kaya kakaiba talaga ang intensity ng heat ng mga kahoy na ganyan (The materials used in the main building were antique wood, molave, narra. That is why the heat from these old wood was so intense),’’ he said.

Ito ay may kalumaan hindi pa naman sila na-require ng ganun, kaya lang kasama ito sa iimbestigahan natin, pati yung mga fire protection equipment nila. Wala kasi nung mga lumang design ng mga building, hindi ganun ka sophisticated ang mga fire protection measures (The investigation will cover the presence of fire protection equipment. The design of old buildings did not incorporate sophisticated fire protection measures).”

Probe into alleged fire protocol lapses

Meanwhile, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. on Tuesday ordered an investigation on Quezon City Fire Marshal Aristotle Bañaga due to reported violations of protocols on the May 17 fire in Tandang Sora, QC that claimed the life of retired Police Brig. Gen. George Ancheta Jr.

The late general’s niece, Quezon City Councilor and Majority Floor Leader Dr. Dorothy “Doray” Delarmente, has decried “irresponsible” reportage of the fire by a news reporter who allegedly interviewed two survivors, the late general’s spouse and helper, at the scene while they were still in a state of shock and disarray.

In a privilege speech at the QC Council on Monday, Delarmente also criticized Fire Marshal Aristotle Bañaga for allegedly allowing the GMA News team access to the fire vicinity and the victims, in violation of protocols.

BFP Chief, Fire Director Louie Puracan, confirmed that the BFP has issued a show-cause order against Bañaga.

“We care deeply for the mental well-being and privacy of all survivors. Rest assured that we will investigate this matter thoroughly and we will impose the proper sanctions where warranted,” Abalos said in a statement, extending his condolences to Ancheta’s family. 

Christopher Lloyd Caliwan (PNA)