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Fire guts historic Manila post office building


Manila - The Manila Central Post Office, one of the Philippine capital’s most historic buildings, was all but destroyed by fire overnight, officials said Monday morning.

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The shell of the neoclassical-style structure, which was built in 1926, was still standing. But Postmaster General Luis Carlos said the building had been completely gutted, “from the basement to the ground floor all the way up to the fifth floor.”

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“The structure is still there, but its ceiling has fallen down,” Carlos told reporters.

Fire officials said they were trying to determine the cause of the blaze, which began in the basement Sunday night. At least one person was hurt in the fire, investigators said.

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The post office, situated along the Pasig River near Manila Bay, is one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks. Designed by two Filipino architects, Juan Arellano and Tomás Mapúa, it was partly destroyed during the Battle of Manila in World War II but was restored in 1946.

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The facility was the main hub for mail distribution in the capital. Carlos said it was unclear how many parcels and letters had been lost. Among the many items presumed to have been destroyed in the fire were valuable works of art that were being copied for stamps, Carlos said.

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A historian, Manuel L. Quezon III, whose namesake grandfather was the Philippines’ president in exile when Japan occupied the country during World War II, said the fire was only the latest blow to Manila’s architectural heritage. He said many buildings that survived the war had not been properly restored.

Quezon suggested that the post office’s shell could be preserved and used to house an extension of the National Museum of the Philippines.

“The post office has been a white elephant for decades,” he said. “But its sturdy shell can be rescued and rebuilt for the National Museum.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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