Toxic smoke from trash dump fire covers part of Panamanian capital

Published March 20, 2013


A cloud of toxic smoke on Wednesday covered part of the Panamanian capital as a fire burned in the city's largest trash dump.

Activities in Panama City were continuing normally with the exception that some schools near the site of the fire suspended classes for the day.

The head of the Sinaproc emergency management agency, Arturo Alvarado, issued a call to the public for calm saying that the smoke's level of toxicity "is not something to be alarmed about."

"We're not going to get poisoned," Alvarado told the media.

Meanwhile, Deputy Health Minister Serafin Sanchez said on television that the emission of gases from the trash dump fire "is completely toxic," though he admitted that authorities still must perform tests to determine the level of toxicity.

The Health Ministry recommended in a communique that people use damp handkerchiefs or facemasks and close the windows of homes near the fire.

The huge fire in the Cerro Patacon dump started Tuesday night but has been "largely brought under control," municipal sanitation director Enrique Ho Fernandez told the media.

Panama's fire chief, Pablo Tuñon, said that 32 firetrucks had been dispatched to Cerro Patacon where their crews are working to put out the blaze. EFE