Fire and smoke can be seen rising from the historic Manila Central Post Office on Monday. Photo courtesy of Bureau of Fire Protection
May 22 (UPI) -- A fire gutted the nearly 100-year-old Manila Central Post Office on Sunday night, leaving only the shell of the historic building standing.
Fire officials are still investigating what started the blaze that swept through the building just before midnight. Postmaster General Luis Carlos said other than the shell, the structure had been destroyed "from the basement to the ground floor all the way up to the fifth floor."
Fire crews battled the blaze throughout the night, raising the alarm to its highest level as dawn broke on Monday morning. The Philippines Bureau of Fire Protection said firefighters did not bring the fire under control until later that morning.
Photos posted on Facebook by the bureau showed smoke billowing from the structure and flames shooting out of the post office in the early morning hours as day broke.
Nahum B. Tarroza, director of the National Capital Region's Bureau of Fire Protection, said the post office's contents of papers, books and mail likely fueled the intensity of the flames.
"It's very saddening because this is such an important part of our history," Tarroza said.
Carlos said that valuable pieces of artwork that were being replicated to make stamps were destroyed in the fire and that it wasn't immediately clear how many letters and packages had been lost.
The building -- a neo-Classic-style structure -- was first erected in 1926, and designed by Filipino architects Juan Arellano and Tomas Mapua near Manila Bay. The structure survived World War II's Battle of Manila in 1945 where it was partially destroyed but restored a year later.
Manila Mayor Maria Sheilah "Honey" Lacuna-Pangan promised to save the remainder of the structure, adding that the damage totaled about $5.4 million.
"The City of Manila will work with the national government to jointly help restore the original structure of the Manila Central Post Office where it once stood," Lucuna-Pangan said.