A massive fire tore through Manila’s historic post office building overnight, slightly injuring one person and razing the nearly 100-year-old landmark in the Philippine capital, police and postal officials said on Monday.
The fire started before midnight in the basement of the neoclassical, five-storey building and was brought under control on Monday morning more than seven hours after it began, firefighters said.
An investigation was under way to determine the cause of the fire and what was damaged, officials said.
More than 80 fire trucks were sent to the decades-old landmark, the Bureau of Fire Protection said.
Thick, black smoke billowed hundreds of metres into the sky as flames gutted the neoclassical Manila Central Post Office that overlooks the Pasig River, and was situated on a main intersection of the capital’s key roads.
Luis Carlos, Postmaster General and chief executive officer of the Philippine Postal Corporation (Philpost), said the blaze spread quickly as the iconic building was not equipped with sprinklers.
“The whole library of stamps had been burned out,” Carlos said, including the country’s collection of commemorative and antique stamps.
“The whole structure itself is important because it is a heritage site. We have to look for a structural engineer to check the integrity of the building.”
“Rest assured, the building will stay the same way as it is,” he added, when asked about rehabilitating the building.
Fire brigades from across the capital deployed personnel to fight the blaze that left one volunteer firefighter with minor injuries.
Originally built in 1926, the post office was once considered the “grandest building” in Manila, according to its website.
It was destroyed in World War II as US forces recaptured the capital from Japanese occupation forces, and rebuilt in 1946.
The Philippine National Museum declared the building an “important cultural property” in 2018.
Letters, parcels and the postal agency’s entire stamp collection were in the building and are likely destroyed, Carlos said.
The Manila Central Post Office was one of the capital’s busiest office buildings but was closed when the fire started. The building was the country’s main mail-sorting and distribution hub and was the central office for the Philippine Postal Corporation.
Postal service in the Philippines began during the Spanish colonial period with horse-riding mail couriers.
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May 22, 2023