The Manila Central Post Office, a cherished historical landmark in the heart of the Philippine capital, fell victim to a devastating fire. This neo-Classical-style architectural masterpiece, which has stood since 1926, was all but destroyed by a fire that raged overnight, leaving behind only the shell of what was once a majestic building.
The incident took place on the night of May 21, 2023, when a fire broke out in the basement of the Manila Central Post Office. Despite the efforts of firefighters, the Postmaster General, Luis Carlos, reported that the building had been completely gutted, from the basement to the ground floor, and all the way up to the fifth floor. The structure was still standing, but the damage was severe. Mr. Carlos shared with reporters that even the ceiling had fallen in the blaze. Fifteen people, mostly firefighters, were injured, while the amount of damage was estimated to be worth around 300 million Philippine pesos.
Following the fire’s tragic aftermath, fire officials commenced an investigation to determine the cause of the blaze that had reduced an iconic building to ruins. The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) released its findings, revealing a surprising and unexpected cause of the fire. The fire was traced back to an accidental explosion of a car battery stored in a basement storage room, not a cause commonly associated with such catastrophic fires.
According to the BFP report, the fire originated in the southern part of the basement, where various materials were stored, including office supplies, thinners, paint cans, and car batteries. The report stated, that: “The combustibility of the load contents and its enclosed set-up greatly influenced heat build-up that explains the explosion and subsequent conflagration“. It was the self-discharge of the car battery that led to a “thermal run-away,” causing a sudden build-up of heat and pressure, eventually culminating in a devastating explosion. Actually, an automobile battery can potentially go into thermal runaway even if it is not in use and is in storage due to various factors. Here are some reasons why this might happen:
- Battery Defect: Car batteries are made up of cells that can develop internal defects over time, even if they are not used. These defects can lead to internal short circuits or an increase in electrical resistance, which in turn can cause an increase in temperature.
- Environmental conditions: The temperature and environmental conditions of the storage can affect the battery. Extreme temperatures, both hot and cold, can adversely affect the battery and lead to thermal runaway.
- Aging: Over time, car batteries undergo a natural aging process which can lead to internal deterioration. Even if the battery is not used, internal stress buildup can lead to thermal problems.
- Electronic malfunctions: Malfunctions in the car’s battery management systems or electronic systems can cause thermal problems. Even if the battery is stopped, the management system can still interact with it, and any errors or malfunctions can lead to an increase in temperature.
- Poor maintenance and storage: If the battery is not properly stored, for example if an adequate charge level is not maintained or if it is not kept clean, this can lead to thermal problems.
It’s important to note that while it’s possible for a car battery to go into thermal runaway even if it’s sitting still and not in use, such situations are relatively rare. However, it is essential to take preventative measures, such as properly storing batteries, periodically checking their condition, and replacing old or damaged batteries, to minimize the risk of unexpected thermal problems.
The Bureau of Fire Protection officially ruled the incident as “purely accidental in nature“.