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article imagePanama City landfill fire still raging after four days

By Jeff Campagna     Mar 24, 2013 in World
Panama City - An aggressive fire broke out on Tuesday March 19 at Panama City's main landfill, Cerro Patacón, causing panic and major health and environmental concerns. The fire has yet to be extinguished.
The National Civil Protection (NSCP), Urban and Household Authority (AAUD), Panama Fire Department (CBP) and the Panamanian Ministry of Health are all battling around the clock to control the landfill blaze, which the Urban and Household Authority claims is "the worst fire in 10 years in Cerro Patacón."
International experts met on Friday with an interdisciplinary team to provide recommendations on the management of landfill fires. Late last night, Panama received an emergency shipment of 100,000 gallons of foam from Texas to help douse the flames. A technical consulting team from the United States is on hand to assist with the dumping of the foam on the crest of the landfill.
Javier Diaz, Panama's Health Minister, claims that from a medical perspective, there is no apparent increase in the number of patients with acute respiratory failure, bronchitis or pneumonia — which are common ailments that arise this time of year. Diaz also reported that the poor air quality in the capital, which is being monitored by the University of Panama, is now within the limits allowed by the Pan American Health Organization.
However, Panama Guide reports that nine adults with pre-existing respiratory conditions in the Mocambo Arriba community have experienced increased breathing complications due to the smoke from the Cerro Patacón blaze, which has been travelling and accumulating in places as far as Bogota, Colombia.
20 AAUD garbage-compactor trucks are being used to relocate 13-15 tons of trash from Cerro Patacón to a landfill in Playa Chiquita, in the district of La Chorrera, about 45 minutes west of the capital city — a task that some of the truck drivers claim will result in a severe delay in regular garbage pick-up services.
The emergency crews are using breathing apparatuses, full-face carbon filter masks and gas scanners that measure levels of oxygen, carbon monoxide, methane concentrations of vapors and fumes of hydrogen. Currently at the scene are 120 garbage compacting trucks, two ambulances, three fire engines, a medical clinic and a decontamination shower.
Even Panama's Major League Baseball Federation was forced to suspend Thursday evening's game between Cocle and Panama Metro because of the nearby blaze. The federation stated, "given the recommendation of the security sectors, in relation to the situation caused by the fire in the hill area Patacón, it was decided to postpone tonight's game."
According to Panama Guide, once the fire on Cerro Patacón is under control, a full-blown arson investigation will begin.
More about Panama city, Fire, Environmental pollution
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