The Manila Central Post Office, one of the most historic buildings in the Philippine capital, was destroyed by fire overnight, officials said Monday morning.
The shell of the neoclassical-style structure, built in 1926, still stood. But Postmaster General Luis Carlos said the building was completely destroyed, “from the basement to the ground floor to the fifth floor.”
Mr Carlos told reporters that the structure was still standing but the roof had collapsed.
Fire officials said they were trying to determine the cause of the fire, which broke out in the basement Sunday night. At least one person was injured in the fire, investigators said.
Located along the banks of the Pasig River near Manila Bay, the post office is one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks. Designed by two Filipino architects, Juan Arellano and Tomás Mapua, it was partially destroyed during the Battle of Manila in World War II but was restored in 1946.
This facility was the main mail distribution center in the capital. Mr Carlos said it was unclear how many parcels and letters were lost. Mr Carlos said many of the items destroyed in the fire included valuable works of art that were being copied for postage stamps.
A historian, Manuel L. Quezon III, whose grandfather was president-in-exile of the Philippines when Japan occupied the country during World War II, said the fire was just the latest blow to Manila’s architectural heritage. He said that many buildings that survived the war have not been properly restored.
Mr. Quezon suggested that the shell of the post office could be preserved and used to expand the National Museum of the Philippines.
He said that the post office has been a white elephant for decades. “But its strong shell can be salvaged and rebuilt for the National Museum.”