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Wednesday, September 03 2014 @ 12:36 AM EDT

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ATTT Announces Security Operation For Easter

Safety & SecurityAbout 50 police units, including motorized patrols Transit Authority and Land Transport, will be located at points of control and surveillance to ensure the free movement of vehicles which run through the Vía Panamericana during Easter.

According to the communication of the entity, they will start operating from 5:00 am on Thursday March 28th until 8:00 pm on Sunday 31st in order to prevent accidents and violations of law.

They indicate that if necessary, they will invest a third lane from the Espiga, Chorrera to Quesos Chela in Capira, as demanded for cars, the measure can be implemented when this celebration starts (Holy Thursday) and then for Sunday when many people return to the capital city.

While in the capital city they will provide these service units together with units of the National Police (DOT) and they will work in coordination with Sinaproc, Red Cross and the Fire Department. (Panama America)

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Waste Law Will Be Presented Next Week At The Cabinet Council

Safety & SecurityThe health minister, Javier Diaz, said the crisis created by the fire at Cerro Patacón garbage dump will allow for the strengthening of the law on waste management in Panama, which will be presented next week to the Cabinet Council.

Diaz said in the early edition of Telemetro Reporta, that the document was written with more than three months of analysis on the operation of landfills and cleanliness across the country.

Diaz said the toxicity levels in the environment have returned to normal.

This is according to the analysis carried out in conjunction with specialists from the University of Panama.

Diaz added that with the confinement of the fire, they have been able to reduce the emission of smoke in the air, however he clarified that no one can say that the fire is 100% controlled.

He also said it still remains to be seen whether there is underground fire, but what they have seen together with the experts "is that it remains very much under control."

That's why Diaz says, they need to continue pouring the special foam on the surface.

He said they are doing everything that has been recommended by the experts so that the fire will be completely extinguished. (Panama America)

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Martinelli Asked The Mayor To Revalue The Contract Of The Company Responsible For The Landfill

Safety & Security"Whoever did this was someone with a very Machiavellian mind," said President Ricardo Martinelli, today, Tuesday March 26th, referring to the fire that was generated in the Cerro Patacón, which was considered intentional.

The Panamanian leader said the company in charge of the landfill "has not been seen" nor have they made a statement, therefore he cataloged them as "irresponsible" and asked the Mayor of Panama City to make a reassessment of their contract.

Martinelli said after the fire, the state had to go out and deal with what happened because the company "should have shown their face."

"Whoever did this are not opposing the government, but rather the country, because this is a dirty trick. Fortunately, it is being controlled," said Martinelli when he arrived at Cerro Patacón where he will evaluate the progress being made to put out the fire at the garbage dump.

Meanwhile, Martinelli announced that the presidential airplane will be used to bring experts from California to advise Panamanian authorities on this fire.

The company responds

Meanwhile, the general manager of the company Urbalia, Carlos Castaño, head of the Cerro Patacón landfill, said they are willing to perform a review of the contract, just as President Ricardo Martinelli had warned.

Castaño told Telemetro Reporta that at all times they have supported the authorities, because the company itself has been present at the scene.

He added that within 12 hours they reopened phase I of the landfill in order to begin receiving garbage, and in this way to help prevent a health emergency. (Panama America)

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Panama Using Chemguard's "First Class" - Class A Foam Concentrate To Fight Cerro Patacon Garbage Dump Fire

Safety & Security By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - The Chemguard company based out of Mansfield, Texas in the United States is now playing a crucial role in fighting the garbage dump fire that has been burning at Cerro Patacon since last Tuesday, 19 March 2013 in Panama.

On Saturday the company shipped a total of 10,935 gallons of two of their products - their "First Class" foam concentrate, and their "Class-A Plus" foam concentrate, for use in Panama.

Both of these products basically improve the effectiveness and efficiency of water when applied to Class A fuels. Most fuels are Class A - things such as paper, wood, plastics - most of the stuff that's contained in a huge pile of garbage like at Cerro Patacon. Class B fuels are flammable liquids like an oil fire, and Class C fires are electrical in nature. According to their website, "Chemguard First Class is a non-corrosive, non-toxic, biodegradable Class A foam concentrate. When mixed with water in the correct proportion, it changes the properties of water. It reduces the surface tension of the water, and produces foam, which allows the water to cling to vertical or horizontal surfaces without run off. This allows the water to absorb more heat and provides greater penetration into Class A fuels."

These types of materials were originally created to help in the fight against forest fires. When you see those tanker airplanes making drops on burning hillsides, many times they contain these same agents which basically help the efficiency and efficacy of water to smother flames in Class A fires. The strategy adopted by the Panamanian fire department is to cover all 30+ acres of the fire with a thick cap of dirt, and now they are also spraying that dirt with these Class A foam products from Chemguard.

This afternoon the Director of the Authority of Urban and Household Cleanliness Enrique Ho said the firemen who are working to combat the fire at Cerro Patacon have already used approximately 2,000 gallons of the foam concentrate they received on Saturday. At that rate they will chew through their 10,000 gallon supply in about five days, and I doubt what they have on hand right now will be enough to completely extinguish this fire. The first shipment was sent by air and the order was basically limited by how much could fit in the airplane. The Panamanian firemen on the ground will be using the "First Class" and "Class A Plus" products to get a feel for them, and they will probably be needing more. I expect the Chemguard company in Texas will be receiving another order in the coming days.

So the obvious "burning" question is - how much does this stuff cost? For obvious reasons the people at Chemguard would not discuss the details of the purchase order made by the Panamanian government, however in today's Google world it took less than ten seconds to find a site adverting these same products at about $18.95 per gallon - which puts the retail purchase price at about $207,218 give or take. Knock off an estimated 15% for a bulk order so that might take it down to about $175,000 or so - then add the cost of flying it down on a charter cargo plane. But hey - whatever. There's a very good chance this fire was caused by arson and the government simply has to get it under control as soon as possible. Then add the cost of manpower, equipment, fuel - and I would not be surprised if this fire is costing the government about $1 million per day to fight - easy.

Focus On Air Quality - The white smoke being produced by the fire at the Cerro Patacon garbage dump is relatively toxic, because it is the product of incomplete combustion. When there's a hotter fire, the burning materials are consumed more, and the hot, black angry looking smoke produced by a hotter burning fire is actually less toxic than the white cloud that's been hanging over Panama City every morning for the past six days. This cloud of toxic smoke has the most tangible impact on the daily lives of the city's residents, so it makes sense that the presence, content, and potential impact of this cloud has been dominating the conversation since the fire started.

Well anyway, for what it's worth, if you're into this sort of stuff you can see the technical specifications for the products being used on the Chemguard website. Hopefully the Panamanian authorities will get this fire under control, and then maybe this nagging cough I've developed recently will go away...

Copyright 2013 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Don't forget to follow Panama Guide on Twitter. Salud.

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2,000 Gallons Of Foam Sprayed on Cerro Patacon Fire

Safety & SecurityThe Secretary General of the Authority for Urban and Household Cleanliness (AAUD), Zenon Navalo, reported that, so far, firemen have sprayed 2,000 gallons of industrial foam on the garbage dumb fire at Cerro Patacón.

Navalo said the spray foam has made significant progress in fighting the fire that broke out seven days ago in the landfill.

"Now it's not a mountain on fire, there are only small areas where flames can be seen," he said.

Toxicity levels are low: MOH

Meanwhile, the Health Minister Javier Diaz said on Monday the levels of toxicity of the smoke from the Cerro Patacón garbage dump, product of fire that began last week, have dropped.

Diaz explained the number of toxic particles that exist in the environment are within levels "near normal", when these types of fires occur.

The minister added that the situation today is different, taking into account the levels of toxicity that have been detected since Tuesday 19 March, when the fire started.

Diaz said his thesis is based on the analysis made by the 41 institutions that are participating in the National Emergency Operations Center.

This analysis ruled out the need of an evacuation due to the levels of pollution in the air, he said.

"The 41 health institutions have not recommended [the evacuation]. This decision has been made in a transparent manner, and the recommendations to be followed are those that have already been taken," he said on Telemetro Reports.

However, Diaz suggested that if in the schools that are close to the landfill, where classes resumed on Monday, if there is a strong level of smoke then the students should be sent home.

At the same time he said they would send experts to these schools to take measurements of the levels of toxic smoke concentrated there. (Prensa)

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Cerro Patacon Investigation Will Begin Once Fire Is Controlled

Safety & SecurityThe investigation to determine whether or not the fire and Cerro Patacón was arson will begin once the fire is under control.

According to the director of the Fire Department of Panama (CBP), Paul Tuñón, the area must be secure before the investigation can begin in order to avoid accidents.

Official Prosecutor's Investigation - Given the concern about possible contamination by toxic gases, the Auxiliary Prosecutor opened an official investigation last Wednesday.

Marcelino Aguilar, the Auxiliary Prosecutor, said investigators from his office visited the scene of the fire, but due to the situation, for the moment they will simply request information from the directors of the Fire Department, the Authority of Urban and Household Cleanliness, the University of Panama, and the Ministry of Health.

No Emergency Declared - The interdisciplinary team ruled out declaring a state of emergency because of the fire at Cerro Patacón that since Tuesday has created a toxic layer of smoke in some areas of San Miguelito and the capital city.

César Lange, director of Rescue of the National Civil Protection System, explained that to declare a state of emergency there must be a considerable number of people affected, as established by the security protocols.

Contrary to what Lange says, the environmentalist said Alida Spadafora said the contamination being expelled into the atmosphere by the emission of toxic smoke warrants declaring an emergency.

Meanwhile, yesterday the Minister of Health, Javier Diaz, said the measure of the air quality dropped to 25 compared to the previous 48 hours, which is within the ranges allowed by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). (Siglo)

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Two Drowned in Chiriqui River

Safety & SecurityWhat began as an afternoon of fishing for two cousins​​ turned into a family tragedy for the relatives of Abel Martínez, 32, and Eugenio González 22, who lost their lives in the waters of the Chiriqui River in the community of La Esperanza, Gualaca district in the province of Chiriqui.

The bodies were located after an extensive search led by the district representative of Gualaca, Hector Quiroz in the company of relatives and community residents, around 10:00 pm yesterday, after the incident was reported at about 6:00 pm.

"We residents and family members of the boys found the bodies, because the Sinaproc staff said that because of the time, they could not do the search," said Quiroz.

Sinaproc responds - Meanwhile Abelardo Serrano, the regional director of Sinaproc, said his staff went to the place and even dove into the water, but because of the time and because it was a mountainous area, they had to abandon the search.

"International standards state that in such case, rescues or searches are not to be performed because of the hour, so therefore after 6:00 pm we suspended this type of activity in order to not put the safety of the rescuers in jeopardy," said Serrano.

It was learned that the youths were from the community of Potrerillos Arriba, in the district of Dolega. (Critica)

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Cerro Patacon - 30 Acres Of Garbage On Fire

Safety & SecurityBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - The Cerro Patacon garbage dump in Panama City caught fire on Tuesday, 19 March 2013, and all this week I've been hearing differing reports on the size of the dump, so I decided to measure it myself.

Using an image from Google Earth (below) you can see that the active "phase II" of the dump which was being used to receive waste from the residents of Panama City measures 500 meters long by 250 meters wide. This translates to 125,000 square meters. There are 10,000 square meters in one hectare so that's 12.5 hectares, or 30.8 acres. This is the size of the area that's on fire.

Between last night and this morning the Panamanian government officials are now saying they have ordered 100,000 gallons of foam which they intend to use to fight the fire. I have a few questions which I am now working to answer. Is that enough material to extinguish this fire? Are they using Class A or Class B foam? How long will it take to get here? What's the mix ratio - meaning - how much water do you need to mix with the 100,000 gallons of foam? Because if it's a 10:1 ratio (for example) then that means the fire department will have to truck a million gallons of water, which is beyond their capabilities. You see where I'm going with this stuff...

Copyright 2013 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Don't forget to follow Panama Guide on Twitter. Salud.

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Now Using Foam On The Cerro Patacón Garbage Dump Fire

Safety & SecurityThe administrator of the Authority of Urban and Household Cleanliness (AAUD), Enrique Ho, said via his Twitter account @ho_fernandez, that they have been conducting tests with the fire department to apply foam to the top of Cerro Patacón.

"We are doing testing with the fire department to spray foam on the top of Patacón," said the official via his account.

In another tweet, Ho said they have calibrated and determined the proper mixture for the foam dispensing machine and he was leaving with firefighters heading to the summit of the Cerro Patacon landfill. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: The Panamanian authorities have consulted with a company from Texas, and they have ordered 100,000 gallons of this foam which they expect to use in their efforts to extinguish the fire at the Cerro Patacon garbage dump, which has been burning since Tuesday, 19 March 2013. Right now they only have 400 gallons on hand which is not nearly enough to have any impact, so this is really just equipment testing.

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Garbage Dump Fire Now Causing Health Problems

Safety & SecurityThe fire at the Cerro Patacón garbage dump, which started in the afternoon of Tuesday, is far from being extinguished, and is still burning.

Yesterday, after 7:00 pm, the flames still persist in the western area of the landfill, despite the hard work on Wednesday by a group of 300 people who have been dumping dirt and sand trying to put out the fire, which has already affected 15 hectares.

The first people who have been affected by the emission of smoke were reported yesterday. There were two children aged 7 and 8 years old who live in La Paz, both were taken to hospital.

To avoid further problems, officials from the office of Urban and Household Cleanliness distributed masks among the residents and those who are working in the area to prevent aspiration of harmful particles.

Protest in La Paz -

The fire in Cerro Patacón already caused problems in the collection of garbage from the capital district of San Miguelito.

To mitigate the crisis, the authorities of the AAUD prepared a new area where they can dump garbage in La Paz, Guna Nega.

In response, dozens of residents closed the road in protest because they want the garbage to be taken somewhere else.

Mariela Rodriguez, who lives in the sector, said the landfill will be in front of their homes, affecting them with foul odors, and that the smoke will cause headaches, itching and allergies.

Enrique Ho, AAUD administrator, said stage 1 was enabled to deposit trash.

A report from the University of Panama found that samples taken are not radioactive.

The Panamanian Association of Business Executives request a reassessment of the management and control of the landfill, to reduce pollution, the environmental and health risks. (Siglo)

Editor's Comment: Wow. Glad to see there was no plutonium in Cerro Patacon. If the garbage was not radioactive, then the smoke won't be either. Sheesh...

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Panama Orders 100,000 Gallons Of Foam From US To Fight Dump Fire

Safety & SecurityThe director of the Authority of Urban and Household Cleanliness, Enrique Ho, said today they acquired 400 gallons of foam in Panama, and they have ordered more than one hundred thousand gallons of a special foam and specialized equipment recommended by the Fire Department of Texas, in the United States, to fight the fire at the Cerro Patacón garbage dump.

Ho called the people who are working to extinguish the fire national heroes.

The access road to the Cerro Patacón landfill was closed to the public, and even the media center was relocated for safety reasons.

The latest results of tests of air samples taken, released by the Sinaproc, indicated 20.9% oxygen and 1% to 2% carbon dioxide. (TVN)

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Toxic Smoke From Cerro Patacon Garbage Dump Fire Causing Health Problems

Safety & SecurityAt least nine older adults with chronic pre-existing conditions in the community of Mocambo Arriba, in Alcalde Diaz, were attended by health authorities yesterday, because their health was complicated by breathing smoke from the fire at the Cerro Patacón garbage dump.

Algis Torres, director of Health for San Miguelito, Las Cumbres and Chilibre, reported that one of these patients, 83, was taken by ambulance to the San Miguel Arcángel hospital because their condition of pneumonia became complicated.

He explained that people who were seen yesterday were suffering from diabetes and hypertension.

Moreover, Enrique Ho, director of the Authority of Urban and Household Cleanliness, said there are 300 people and 70 bulldozers working to control the fire that started Tuesday afternoon.

He said yesterday they reopened phase one of the landfill, which had been closed for 15 years, to temporarily allow for the unloading of garbage trucks.

The official said they will continue this for the next two weeks, until the construction of the third phase is complete.

Indeed, there were protests at this new area yesterday.

Residents of the sector of La Paz in Guna Nega, closed access the to the landfill because the new garbage dump is located 100 meters from their homes.

Faced with the actions of those residents, riot control officers of the National Police responded to the area and reopened the road using pepper spray.

Meanwhile, Silvano Vergara, Administrator of the National Environmental Authority, said the low wind speed over the last few days has hampered the dispersion of the smoke. (Prensa)

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Sabotage? Coincidence? Or Just Bad Luck?

Safety & SecurityPresident Ricardo Martinelli called attention today to the fact that three fires started simultaneously in three different locations at the Cerro Patacón garbage dump in Panama City, and he wondered if it was coincidence, sabotage, or just bad luck.

However, President Martinelli said fortunately the fire is now under control.

The comments came on the Twitter account of President Martinelli.

The official government spokesman Luis Eduardo Camacho hinted that the fire was caused because it started at three different points at the same time.

Enrique Ho, director of the Authority of Urban and Household Cleanliness, advocated eliminating the street runs through the middle of the Cerro Patacón landfill, to control the entry of people.

As for today's agenda of the president, the Secretary of State reported that on today's agenda, President Martinelli meets with the President of the Principality of Asturias in the Palace of the Herons. (TVN)

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Extensive Cap of Smoke From Garbage Dump Fire Covering Panama City

Safety & SecurityThe Panamanian capital on Thursday remained covered by a dense cloud of smoke from the fire at the city garbage dump.

The gray cloud came after a fire broke out on Tuesday in five hectares of the Cerro Patacón landfill on the outskirts of the city, and so far firemen still have not been able to put the fire out.

"The levels of toxicity in the smoke emitted from the landfill of Cerro Patacón are low and below the range of danger," said the health minister, Javier Diaz.

In addition, the fire is about to create a crisis in waste collection in the capital and in the populous district of San Miguelito, since 80% of the trucks used to collect garbage cannot be used.

Health authorities are warning people in the areas surrounding the garbage dump to use masks or scarves to cover their faces, and to keep the windows on their houses closed.

The Ministry of Education suspended classes in schools in the Kuna Nega region, the Guillermo Patterson school in San Miguelito, the Instituto América and the Octavio Méndez Pereira school, which are adjacent to the fire as a preventive measure.

Some health officials say that besides the immediate effects related to diseases such as asthma, bronchitis or allergic problems, the smoke mixed with methane and carbon dioxide releases dioxins that may be carcinogenic. (Telemetro)

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No Longer Sending Panama City Garbage to La Chorrera

Safety & SecurityThe director of the Authority of Urban and Household Cleanliness (AAUD), Enrique Ho, said on Thursday, March 21, he stopped sending garbage to the Playa Chiquita landfill in La Chorrera, because they enabled space in stage 1 of the Cerro Patacón landfill, where on Tuesday (March 19) there was a fire that threw a thick toxic smoke into Panama City.

Ho also announced on TVN News, that garbage will be collected in various parts of the capital city today which will be taken to the area of the Cerro Patacon landfill which has been reopened.

He explained one of the problems caused by the fire at the landfill in the capital was the need for a place to take the garbage, then he said that by about 9:00 pm last night, all of their trucks were full, and what's more the landfill in La Chorrera is very far away and is not adequate, so the decision was made to create a space in Cerro Patacón.

Another reason was that the residents of La Chorrera were also upset, including the Mayor Themistocles Herrera, who said he had not been consulted, said the director of the AAUD.

Ho said it will not be easy to extinguish the fire entirely due to the methane gas emanating from the garbage, but he said there are dump trucks working around the clock to throw dirt on the parts of the dump that are on fire.

Ho said in other countries where similar fires have occurred, sometimes it can take months to put the fire out.

Ho also said the one piece of good news is that the smoke is no longer black, and that now it is white. (Estrella)

Editor's Comment: Whoops. White smoke is not good news in this case. It means the burning material was not fully consumed, and this white smoke actually contains more toxins than the black smoke.

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Panama City Cerro Patacon Garbage Dump Fire Causes Toxic Smoke (Video)

Safety & SecurityBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - I interviewed my father who is a retired fire chief in New York about the fire at the garbage dump in Cerro Patacon, the toxic smoke the fire is producing, and the challenges fire fighters are facing in their efforts to extinguish the fire.

Copyright 2013 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Health Minister Says Smoke Cloud Is Non-Toxic

Safety & SecurityThe health minister, Javier Diaz said there are low levels of toxicity in the smoke being produced by the garbage dump fire at Cerro Patacon that started yesterday afternoon.

He explained that according to the latest monitoring this smoke layer that is covering parts of the capital city have low levels of toxicity and are non-toxic.

He reiterated that this smoke is not dangerous to people.

The official said the smoke may cause damages in some people in the airways and skin irritations.

Recommended for adults and children, who live near the landfill of Cerro Patacón, wear masks and wet cloths.

He said they will be permanently monitoring the smoke cloud to safeguard the health of the inhabitants.

Diaz that so far there have been no reports of emergencies due to the smoke in the city's health centers. (Critica)

Editor's Comment: This is back peddling. The Deputy Minister of Health said earlier this morning that the smoke cloud was "completely toxic" and now they are trying to roll that back. Then as soon as he say's it's not toxic, the next words out of his mouth are how it can cause respiratory problems and skin irritations. Yeah, sounds pretty damn harmless to me.

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Conflicting Reports Over Toxic Smoke

Safety & SecurityA cloud of toxic smoke now covers part of Panama City in the wake of its largest landfill fire, which the authorities continue to work to put out after more than twelve hours of work, amid conflicting reports about air quality.

Activities in the capital continue as normal with the exception of some schools near the scene that suspended classes on Wednesday, according to local media reports.

The director general of the National System of Civil Protection (SINAPROC), Arturo Alvarado, called for calm on Wednesday among the population, with the argument that the level of toxicity of the smoke "is not alarming."

"We will not be poisoned," Alvarado told local media, who acknowledged that "the smoke will bother anyone" and that, in this case, it can cause irritation to the eyes and nose.

For his part, Deputy Minister of Health, Serafin Sanchez, told local television that the "emission of gasses" from the fire at the landfill "is totally toxic" but he acknowledged that there must be testing to determine "the level of toxicity."

The Ministry of Health recommended, through a statement, that the public should use damp handkerchiefs or masks, close the windows of homes near the fire, and immediately go to a health center if they have respiratory problems.

The large-scale fire at the "Cerro Patacón" landfill started last night and by this morning it was "very controlled," according to the CEO of the Authority of Urban and Household Cleanliness, Enrique Ho Fernandez.

The Chief of the Fire Department of Panama, Pablo Tuñón, said they have 32 trucks at Cerro Patacón working to extinguish the fire.

The director of the Cleanliness Authority has said the fire could have been caused by the people who collect waste, who as of last week have been assigned to a new area of the landfill to work, which they did not accept, explained Ho Fernandez.

He added that the situation will inevitably affect garbage collection in Panama City, where you already can see piles of garbage in collection points.

The free transit around Cerro Patacón, west of Panama City, has been suspended by the authorities, while local media shows aerial images of the smoke cloud. (Critica)

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Garbage From Panama City Being Trucked To La Chorrera

Safety & SecurityMore than twenty garbage trucks have reached the Playa Chiquita landfill in La Chorrera after the fire at Cerro Patacón, in the capital city.

Many of the garbage trucks have been arriving at this landfill since six in the morning in order to dump waste.

At this time about 15 truck full of garbage are in line waiting their turn to enter the scales owned by the company at the entrance of the landfill to be weighed.

In a statement the Mayor of La Chorrera, Themistocles Herrera, reported that during the morning he received a call from the manager of EMAS Sergio Diaz, seeking approval to be able to deposit their garbage at the La Chorrera landfill for three days, which he approved because of the notorious urgency. (Estrella)

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Work Continues To Extinguish Fire At Cerro Patacon

Safety & SecurityAuthorities continue to work Wednesday to extinguish the fire in the landfill at Cerro Patacón which began yesterday, Tuesday.

The incident has caused a lot of smoke in various parts of the capital city, the suspension of classes in some schools, and delays in garbage collection.

IMPACT - The CEO of the Authority of Urban and Household Cleanliness (AAUD), Enrique Fernández Ho said the entity will work between 25% and 30% capacity due to the fire at the landfill.

However, the official said on Wednesday that the fire is already partly under control, unlike what happened last night. But Ho Fernandez acknowledged that "unfortunately the area that burned was where the area where garbage was deposited" from Panama City.

About garbage collection, the director of AAUD said trucks with the garbage collected yesterday were sent to a landfill today in La Chorrera (Panama west). This means they will lose time because of the distance and the traffic jams, he said.

However, said the priority now is to put out the fire in Patacón, and for that they are preparing a new sector where they can deposit the waste.

CLASSES SUSPENDED - Meanwhile, Federico Castro, regional director of the Ministry of Education in Panama center, said classes at the América, Fermín Naudau, Japón, Ricardo Miró and Octavio Méndez Pereira schools have been suspended for today.

According to the official, both students and teachers in these schools have reported allergies and respiratory problems due to the toxic smoke from Cerro Patacón.

"We are not going to be poisoned" - SINAPROC: The director general of the National System of Civil Protection (SINAPROC), Arturo Alvarado, reiterated that the smoke emanating from Cerro Patacón is not toxic, but he acknowledged that it causes discomfort. "The smoke bothers anyone," he said.

To verify that the smoke does not affect the population, Alvarado said he would do a tour of different parts of the city, such as Bethania. "We are not going to be poisoned," the official told local media.

Meanwhile, the head of the Fire Department of Panama, Pablo Tuñón, said 32 trucks are working to extinguish the fire that started yesterday afternoon, Tuesday.

MINSA RECOMMENDATIONS - For its part, the Ministry of Health (MoH) reported that the toxic gases emanating from the burning trash can cause environmental problems. Its effect on humans is irritation of the mucous membranes, respiratory congestion, as well as irritation to nasal and ocular due to continuous exposure to smoke, they said in a statement.

Thus, the MoH recommended that people should use wet wipes or masks, in case they are exposed to the smoke that comes from burning trash.

"People close to the area of ​​the fire showing any symptoms related to respiratory or mucous membranes are asked to go immediately to the nearest health center, mainly for children who may be most vulnerable" said the report. (Prensa)

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Panama City's Garbage Dump (Cerro Patacon) Is On Fire

Safety & SecurityBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Calling it the "worst fire at Cerro Patacon in ten years," the Director of the Cleanliness Authority Enrique Ho reported this afternoon that section 2 of the Cerro Patacon garbage dump in Panama City is on fire.

The part of the dump that's burning is where the private contractors unload, and includes a large section of used tires.

Ho said the last time there was a fire of this magnitude was ten years ago, and it took the fire department six days to put it out.

He also said the garbage collection service could be affected in Panama City because the fire makes it impossible for the trucks to unload.

All of the local news channels showed television shots of the fire burning out of control. There's a large plume of smoke rising to the Northeast of Panama City - that's the fire. It's big.

Editor's Comment: Six days is wishful thinking. Parts of this fire will continue to burn until the start of rainy season. These kinds of fires are notoriously difficult to extinguish. As long as there's enough fuel and oxygen it will smoke and smolder for a very long time.

Copyright 2013 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Albrook Mall Reopened After Fire

Safety & SecurityIt has been reported that the doors of the Albrook Mall have been reopened, after the fire department completed their inspection.

Earlier, the Fire Department had announced the complete closure of the Mall at least for today, due to excessive smoke in the halls and warehouses.

However, despite this measure, it was learned that the stores are open. (TVN)

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Huge Fire At Albrook Mall Yesterday Afternoon

Safety & SecurityAfter an intense day, in the early morning hours of today the members of the Fire Department of Panama finally managed to put out the fire that entirely consumed a commercial business at the Albrook Mall.

Heriberto Chavez, of the National System of Civil Protection, said the firemen are still both inside and outside of the structure trying to control what's left of the fire.

Chavez said on the channel 2 TVN morning news that together with the National Police, the security personnel from the Transportation Terminal and firefighters, they are discussing the possibility of opening only the internal lanes of the bus terminal to allow the transportation providers to give services to the users.

Meanwhile, the rear lanes will remain closed while the work is carried out to remove the debris left from the fire.

Sinaproc personnel are at the scene to evaluate the block that was affected by the fire, to be able to decide what stores will be able to open their doors. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: This is not the first big fire at the Albrook Mall. A large transformer caught fire on 5 March 2009, and on 11 December 2007 the warehouse of the Conway store caught fire, in a manner apparently very similar to yesterday's fire. So this is at least the third fire at the Albrook Mall. If there was a sprinkler system in that warehouse, chances are they had the contents stacked right up to the roof (too high) which prevented the sprinklers from doing their job. Anyway, now the whole front of the building has been ripped off, the burning contents mucked out, and this section of the building might have to be rebuilt.

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Body of Missing Maria Chiquita Beach Swimmer Found

Safety & SecurityEight days after he went missing in the ocean, the body of Benjamín Márquez was found among pieces of driftwood at Caño Ciego next to Isla Naranjo, in the district of María Chiquita, yesterday morning. On 3 March 2012 Márquez, who resided in the area of 24 de Diciembre, wanted to surprise his wife and some other family members by celebrating her birthday on the beach in the community of Maria Chiquita.

However, the weather conditions were not favorable, because the province of Colon was hit by a passing cold front.

Márquez was dragged off the beach by the waves and he lost his life.

The 27 year old man was found by a family member with the cooperation of a fisherman who would not give up in the search.

In the afternoon, staff from the office of the Public Ministry arrived at the scene to remove the body and take it to the morgue in the district of Portobelo. (Siglo)

Editor's Comment: Pay attention to and heed the warnings issued by the National Civil Protection System (SINAPROC) with regards to higher than normal tides, winds, weather, and rough conditions on the oceans and beaches. It seems like every time they issue one of these things someone ends up drowning at the beach.

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Fire On A Metro Bus Causes Panic - Six Injured

Safety & SecurityPanic spread in a Metro bus when passengers saw it filling with smoke, resulting in five people injured, of which two are babies and three adults. (more)

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When Can You Legally Conduct A "Citizen's Arrest" in Panama?

Safety & SecurityBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - An interesting question arose on Wednesday during the meeting of the Playa Community regarding what we gringos would know as a "citizen's arrest." I investigated the issue and the answer was somewhat surprising.

The question arose - "When can I make a citizen's arrest in Panama? Can I do it at all? Is it even legal? Or, if I try to make a citizen's arrest, will the cops haul me away instead?" Good question. At the time and right off the top of my head I didn't have the answer, based on what is written in Panamanian law. I knew what I would do in that situation just based on my gut. Let's say I find someone in the living room of my home and he's about to try to steal my laptop computer. I would hold that person (one way or the other), notify the police, and wait for them to arrive to haul the criminal away. But, I didn't know the underlying law. Is that even legal? Good question...

The short answer is - yes. Article 21 of the Panamanian Constitution says "any delinquent who is surprised 'in fragranti' can be apprehended by any person, and should be immediately turned over to the authorities." There are then three Articles in the Penal Code which further define the meaning of the "flagrant" commission of a crime - specifically Articles 2148, 2149, and 2150. Basically, if you catch someone in the act of committing a crime "red handed" then you are fully within your rights to hold that person - effectively executing what we would know as a "citizen's arrest" - until the police officers arrive and put him in cuffs.

Thought you would like to know. Thanks to Jim Rizik and Carlos Sannad for following up on this issue. They gave me the basics, and then I confirmed what they already had with my own personal criminal lawyer, who is a walking dictionary of the Panamanian criminal code. He immediately spouted this stuff from memory, but then went back, looked it up, and sent me the sources in law and the constitution.

Copyright 2013 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Don't forget to follow Panama Guide on Twitter. Salud.

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Senior Citizens On A Road Trip Escape Burning Bus

Safety & SecurityA bus from the Santiago - Atalaya route caught fire in Via Tocumen at about 5 am today, Thursday.

About 30 people (the driver and passengers) made ​​it out in time, after one of the front wheels of the bus began to burn.

The passengers, all members of an association of senior citizens, who had organized an excursion to the Darien, managed to exit the bus in the midst of despair.

The bus driver tried to extinguish the fire using a fire extinguisher, but the flames continued to spread little by little.

Firefighters responded to the emergency and brought the fire under control, a situation that caused a traffic jam in the area of the company ENSA.

No one was injured and passengers waited for assistance from another bus to continue their journey. (Critica)

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"Guns For Food & Medicine" Take Weapons Off The Streets

Safety & SecurityDozens of firearms of different calibers and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, even some from the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989, were delivered on Thursday to the authorities in exchange for coupons for food and medicine in an area in the Western part of the province of Panama that has been ridden by crime.

Women and men came quietly to a point installed by the Government of Panama next to a supermarket in Arraiján, 30 kilometers to the west of Panama City, and delivered weapons to members of the National Police in a plan that has been running for several years in some of the areas which are the most insecure in the metropolitan area, and in later versions included the exchange of weapons for medicines.

"The police think, according to their statistics, the program has a positive effect in terms of reducing crime," said the Press Secretary of the office of the Governor of the Province of Panama, Roberto Tejeira.

A woman who identified herself only as Margarita, 60, said she exchanged an old revolver her family acquired after the invasion of Panama on December 20, 1989 that ousted dictator Manuel Noriega regime, and are part of the many weapons left in the streets after the military action.

"The gun was already rather old, but I got a $75 coupon," said the woman. "We had it to defend ourselves, but there are many guns on the streets that are used to steal and kill," she added.

Those who participated in the exchange were not asked their identity nor were they questioned about the origin of the weapons, which will then be destroyed.

This is the second time that the program has taken place in Arraiján, one of the population centers to the West of the capital where there have been increasing rates of violence and crime by gangs and drug traffickers in recent years.

Authorities say hit men are trained in this area who are used by gangs of drug traffickers.

According to Tejeira, about 1,500 weapons and more than 110,000 rounds of ammunition have been destroyed since the program was implemented ten years ago and was originally named "Yes to peace, not weapons."

After Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, Panama is the country with the highest per capita murder rate in Central America - 18 per 100,000 - security officials said. (Estrella)

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Fire (Possibly Fatal) Leaves About 100 Homeless in Curundu

Safety & SecurityIs the victim a human or an animal? That's what will determine the results of the autopsy to be performed on the remains found yesterday, Sunday, in the rubble of the barracks that were consumed in a fire on Frangipani Avenue, in the village Curundú.

A raging fire broke out at approximately 10:00 am under circumstances that are being investigated by experts from the Fire Department of Panama.

Results? More than 30 homeless families (about 100 people), the disappearance of a man, and a perimeter of destruction.

Story - According to reports offered between those who were involved in the emergency, apparently all started at 10:30 am, while many of the inhabitants of the barracks known as "Patio Roché" slept.

Presumably the fire started in Room 27 and in seconds, the tongues of fire took over the airspace of the National Avenue, near Curundú, and Frangipani Avenue.

The fire alarm set in motion some 60 units of the Fire Department of Panama from the stations in Amador, Carrasquilla and Balboa, who faced the fierce fire, while the occupants of the building saw their belongings being charred by the fire.

Some were able to save a few things, but most didn't have time to save anything.

In the place there were unofficial reports of the disappearance of a man in his 30s, who at press time still had not been located.

Homeless - The reports have not been unified on the exact number of people who have been harmed, but an estimated 36 families, which would add a total of 100 people have been left without a bed to sleep in and nothing to wear.

Find - When the fire was controlled, firefighters proceeded to clean up the debris and found the remains of something that was once living, but they could not identify the species, given the level of incineration presented.

In response, the authorities are expected to identify the body found and determine if it is human or animal.

Authorities - Authorities from the Ministry of Housing and Land Management (MIVIOT) the Mayor of Panama, the National System of Civil Protection and Emergency Single System 911 all responded to the scene. (Critica)

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Firemen Extinguish Blaze At Chicken Processing Plant

Safety & SecurityIt took firemen from the Juan Diaz station about an hour to smother a small fire in a chicken processing plant belonging to the company Toledano in Rana de Oro, Pedregal.

The head of the Department of Fire Investigation said the flames were confined to the area where the chicken parts are cut up, and there were no reports of any of the workers being injured or affected.

He said that all were successfully evacuated.

The firemen cut a hole in one of the fences at the end of the factory to be able to enter the affected area more quickly. (TVN)

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