A fire that started at 5.30 on Wednesday, October 10, in a new office tower on Panama’s Avenida Balboa, was still burning over 24 hours later.
It led to the evacuation of residents in nearby apartment buildings. They were given minutes to grab a few possessions and documents as explosions reverberated in the basement of the Bicsa Financial Center,
The fire began. in a furniture storage area. Firefighters said the explosions were caused by flammable materials inside the building, but no one was injured.
The fire brought President Ricardo Martinelli to the scene, and instant recognition that the fire service is poorly equipped to deal with major outbreaks.
Firefighters have complained for years about lack of equipment, and clothing, and the certain knowledge that they cannot reach the upper floors of current apartment and office buildings.
The president said that the government has invested $30 million in equipment and staff for the department, but the day's events showed that more work needs to be done.
Fire officials told the president that the fire was largely contained but that there were still "small flare-ups that are being controlled." Soon after more explosions followed
Panama Fire Chief Pablo Tuñón said that the firewas located in a basement storage unit of the building. In addition to the six fire trucks on the scene, there were five tanker trucks from water agency Idaan.
Streets around the building were closed and major traffic jams quickly developed and lasted throughout Thursday with cars, buses and trucks on the Corridor Sur, reduced to a slower than usual crawl, and sidestreets at a virtual standstill, and the Cinta Costera resembling a giant parking lot.