10-hour fire hits BOC building
MANILA, Philippines — A fire raged for 10 hours and gutted a building of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) before it was put out yesterday morning.
According to the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), the fire that reached fifth alarm started at around 9 p.m. Friday and was put out at past 7 a.m. the next day.
Two utility persons of the building were reported injured in the incident, arson chief investigator Senior Inspector Lucio Albaracin said.
The fire started at the third floor of the BOC’s Port of Manila (POM) building and destroyed the fourth floor as well, officials said.
The affected offices will be temporarily relocated to the the BOC gymnasium.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, Albaracin said.
BOC-POM district collector Rhea Gregorio said the blaze gutted the third and fourth floors of the building.
Even if the first and second floors of the building were not affected by the fire, documents and equipment were drenched in water when the firefighters put out the flames, she said.
Gregorio is confident that not all their records are lost.
Given time, the BOC-POM would be able to restore most of the documents, she added.
“This is the modern age, everything is in the (computerized) system. The hard copies are lost but we could always reconstruct and there are also duplicate copies,” she said.
Gregorio said they are rebuilding their operations to prevent port congestion. She said they will take advantage of the extended weekend to set up the BOC-POM’s assessment system.
They would temporarily relocate at the BOC’s gymnasium to prevent delays in the release of the shipments entering the port, she said.
The BOC-POM coordinated with Asian Terminals Inc. for the payment of fees and with the Maritime Industry Authority and the Philippine Ports Authority for the accommodation of some of the offices.
BOC spokesperson Erastus Sandino Austria said among the offices that would be transferred to the gymnasium would be the Formal Entry Division while other offices would stay nearby.
Gregorio said while the BFP was scheduled to begin its investigation yesterday, it was unlikely that the fire was deliberately set in order to destroy documents needed in investigating cases of smuggling.
“We are looking at faulty (electrical) wiring,” she said.
The POM building was built in the 1900s and has been identified by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines as a heritage landmark.
As of noon yesterday, Gregorio could not give an estimate on the cost of the fire since it was still being assessed by BFP.
At least 700 families were left homeless in a fire that reached fifth alarm in Delpan, Tondo, Manila and was put out before dawn yesterday.
The fire started at around 11 p.m. at a residential area in Parola Gate and was put out at around 6:30 a.m. the next day, according to arson chief investigator Senior Inspector Lucio Albaracin.
The fire razed 350 houses. Arson investigators estimated that the fire destroyed P1.5 million worth of property.