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Wednesday, April 16 2014 @ 12:05 PM EDT

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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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Grass Fires Causing Problems For Fire Department

Safety & SecurityThe intense summer has increased the number of calls for firefighters in the Western part of the province of Panama, who have to respond to several reports of burning grasslands every day.

According to a report from the fire department, yesterday Thursday they responded to 19 grass fire calls between La Chorrera to Chame.

Firefighters have asked the community to use caution in such cases, and also avoid throwing burning cigarettes, cans and glass, because the heat can cause fire.

Meanwhile, residents of several communities say every year in the dry season they have to deal with these situations.

The concern of the residents is that the smoke can affect infants and those with respiratory diseases. (TVN)

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Hospital Reopening After Chemical Spill Cleanup

Safety & SecurityThe emergency room of the Susana Jones hospital has been reopened, now that the cleaning staff has determined there are no chemical spills in this area.

The medical staff is attending patients without any problem.

Later a new inspection will be made of the ​​radiology area.

The Radiology Department will remain closed because there is a higher concentration of the chemical which was spilled in this area.

It also recommended to the hospital authorities that they should conduct a cleaning in the area of ​​radiology, in order to try to resume services later in the afternoon today. (TVN)

Editor's Comment: Yesterday the hospital was evacuated as a result of this chemical spill. I still have not seen any report indicating what (exactly) was spilled.

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Roof Collapses In Parking Area On Four Cars

Safety & SecurityBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - The roof over a parking area gave way this afternoon, and came crashing down on the hoods of four cars that were parked underneath.

This occurred in Bethania, across the street from the Lung Fung restaurant.



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Fire Consumes Cardboard Boxes At Moving Company

Safety & SecurityA fire occurred yesterday afternoon in one of the open galleries of a warehouse where there was a large number of cardboard boxes, as well as wood, rags, and paper.

The fire occurred near Avenue Villalaz Ascanio in Curundú.

The company Canal Mover and Logistic Corporation, which is a residential moving service, had hundreds of these items located in their open metal warehouse which the flames consumed in minutes.

Orlando Villarreal, of the Fire Department of Panama, said in order to control the fire, and due to the distance from a working fire hydrant, they used two tanker trucks, a ladder truck, two ambulances, and 50 firemen from the Balboa and Ricardo Arango fire stations.

Villarreal added that when a fire occurs people should dial 103 to report the fire and they should not try to smother the flames themselves, because this is dangerous and they could be risking their lives.

When the fire broke out, two police officers were patrolling the area on a motorcycle, and they immediately notified the fire department.

In this event there were no injuries or affected.

Mario Ramirez of the Division of Fire Investigation, said the causes of the fire are unknown. He said they will be making the necessary investigations. (Siglo)

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Gas Station On Fire in Rio Abajo...

Safety & SecurityA taxi crashed into a gas station in Rio Abajo, specifically in the area known as "El Balboa", and caused one of the fuel dispensers to catch fire endangering the lives of workers and people who were close to the place.

Preliminary information indicates that after crashing, the taxi sped away.

Firemen responded to the scene to try to extinguish the fire. It was learned that the people who were on the premises nearby were evacuated for fear of an explosion. (Estrella)

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Grass Fires Increase Costs For Fire Department

Safety & SecurityThe Fire Department of Panama sees the increase in grass fires so far this year with great concern.

This situation according to Captain Angel Delgado of the Fire Department, is not only a danger to health and the environment, but also risks and costs of equipment and personnel ranging from $300 to $500 per hour for each incident.

In this sense, Delgado said that only in the month of January a total of 790 grass fires have been extinguished in the different regions and in Panama City, as well as three forest fires in the areas of La Yeguada in the province of Veraguas, one in Boquete, and another in Herrera in the area of Montuoso, while in the region of Macaracas there is still a situation that has to be investigated.

The district of La Chorrera tops the list of grass fires with 186 cases, followed with 151 in the province of Cocle, where, according to Delgado, the areas of Aguadulce and Penonomé are being affected.

Panama center reported 130 cases, while there were 119 in David and another 58 in Veraguas.

For this situation they have already issued a nationwide alert in all areas, within which the full time guard has been activated, as well as volunteers and administrators.

According to Delgado the investigations show these fires have been caused by waste matches, gasoline, and even alcohol, so evidence indicates the hand of man is behind them.

These fires bring consequences that affect protected areas and contribute to environmental pollution, and for an increase in asthma and other respiratory allergies.

Last year a total of 4,611 cases of grass fires were reported, as well as 14 forest fires, said the official. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: 'Tis the season. Every year during dry season the grass burns off...

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Car Consumed By Fire On San Miguelito Bridge

Safety & SecurityA car caught fire at 11:00 am on the rise to the bridge in San Miguelito headed towards Panama City.

It is presumed that first an explosion occurred, according to early reports that have been sent through the social networks.

The car is right in the middle of the road leading to the center of Panama City, so it has caused a large traffic jam.

The car, a red sedan, was consumed in its entirety.

At the moment the fate of the driver is unknown. (Mi Diario)

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Overheating Fan Motor Caused Pueblo Nuevo Fire

Safety & SecurityThe fire that occurred on Calle 16 in Pueblo Nuevo last week was caused by the overheating motor of an old electric fan that was left running, according to Irán Ponce, the head of the Department of Fire Investigation of the Fire Department of Panama.

The fire destroyed 12 rooms for rent, where 34 people lived.

Ponce said, regarding the case of Santa Ana, where flames consumed 10 big houses and affected 289 people, they are still investigating the causes of the fire.

So far in 2013 there have already been four big fires.

A senior citizen was killed in one of them. (Siglo)

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Firemen and Management Reach Agreement on Pay and Promotions

Safety & SecurityThe agreements reached between the members of the "permanent guard" of the fire department of Panama and the government will start to be implemented.

Their promotions will start to take effect immediately, said Pablo Tuñón, the Chief of the Fire Department.

Some of the firefighters will have to attend the Academy for training in order to be eligible to receive their promotions.

Tuñón also explained the breakdown of the salary increase of $100 (per month), which will take effect gradually.

The first payment will be $25 in the first half of March, another $25 will apply from the first half of October, completing the first $50. In January 2014, the increase will be completed.

The firefighters and the authorities had established a 30 day deadline to resolve these issues. (Telemetro)

Editor's Comment: To put this whole problem with the firemen in a nutshell - the government had already agreed to give them raises and promotions, based on length of service. However the government then failed to budget the money necessary to actually pay for those raises and promotions. The firemen started to protest and make noise, the dialog started, and now they have reached an agreement. Unfortunately, in Panama very often it seems like you can't get anything done until you're closing a street somewhere, and getting your face on the morning news to bitch about (whatever).

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Man Killed In Diablo Heights Fire

Safety & SecurityA man died early this morning when his house caught fire.

Firefighters rushed to the house in Diablo Heights, in the reverted areas, to start the work of extinguishing the fire, but much of the building had been consumed by flames.

Amid the operation Fire Department located the body of a dead man who had been burned in one of the rooms of the house.

Unofficial data indicates that neighbors heard an explosion as a result of flammable products that were in the residence.

The Security Office of the Fire Department of Panama will initiate investigations to determine the causes of this incident. (Critica)

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Public Ministry Investigating Pueblo Nuevo Fire

Safety & SecurityOfficials from the Public Ministry and the Office of Fire Safety will investigate the cause of the fire that occurred Thursday at Calle 15 in Pueblo Nuevo.

The fire consumed an old wooden building called "Salomón" by local residents, leaving 12 families and a total of 34 people homeless, according to the preliminary report. The fire came 24 hours after another fire consumed 10 buildings in the village of Santa Ana, leaving 289 homeless.

There has been speculation about the possible causes of the fire in Pueblo Nuevo, among which raises the possibility that it might have been caused by a short circuit. The owner of the room where the fire started was not there when the incident occurred.

The area has been cordoned off by the Police, but some residents fainted while trying to retrieve their belongings.

It was reported that those affected will be relocated to the Community Board of Pueblo Nuevo, in pensions and hotels located nearby.

The director of the National Assistance Program, Rafael Guardia, went to the scene and announced the creation of a socio-economic study of the victims.

Guardia said the PAN, the Mayor of Panama and the Ministry of Housing and Land Management is responsible for providing the necessary assistance to the victims with hot food, and then when they are relocated, to give them material assistance.

Guardia said the Ministry of Housing and Land Management will determine if the building will be rebuilt. (TVN)

Editor's Comment: It seems like there might have been some illegal electrical connections to that building. The local residents all seemed to know it was caused by a short circuit.

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