Muntinlupa fire triggers SLEX traffic jam

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(3rd UPDATE) A fire hits a residential area in Muntinlupa, causing a transmission tower to lean toward the Alabang flyover and prompting the temporary closure of the Alabang viaduct

TRANSMISSION TOWER. Tower 34 of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines’ Biñan-Muntinlupa 230kV line trips due to the fire on April 19, 2017. Photo by Emmanuel Soriano/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – A fire that hit a residential area in Barangay Alabang, Muntinlupa caused a transmission tower of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) to lean toward the Alabang flyover, triggering heavy traffic along the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) on Wednesday, April 19.

In a Facebook post, the Muntinlupa city government said the fire broke out at around 8:48 am on Wednesday, involving homes of informal settlers near the northbound side of the Alabang toll gate.

"The [residential] structure is more or less 400 square meters, occupied by more or less 80 families as alleged by some occupants, and was made of light and concrete masonry," the city government said.

No one was hurt in the blaze, which was declared under control at 9:10 am and then put out at 9:15 am.

— FEPAG EMS (@FEPAGEMS) April 19, 2017

But the NGCP said Tower 34 of its Biñan-Muntinlupa 230kV line, located near the Alabang Exit of the SLEX, tripped due to the fire.

"By 9:15 am, NGCP personnel were on-site to assess the damage and check the safety perimeter. Aerial patrols were also conducted to evaluate the integrity of the tower," said the NGCP in a statement.

"Fortunately, due to NGCP’s line redundancy system, there were no power interruptions," it added.

In a separate statement late Wednesday afternoon, the NGCP said restoration of the tower has begun.

It also appealed to local government units to help clear areas underneath and around transmission towers.

"Areas immediately underneath and around a tower site should be free from all obstructions and structures. Areas underneath transmission lines should be clear from any structure more than 3 meters high. These structures not only pose a hazard to the continued operations of transmission functions but also pose a direct threat to the safety of people around them," the NGCP explained.

"We call on all local government units to support us in our efforts to remove all structures and settlers who live under transmission facilities."

Heavy traffic

As a result of the fire and the NGCP tower mishap, the northbound and southbound lanes of the Alabang viaduct were temporarily closed at 9:10 am.

The official Twitter account of the SLEX said the tail-end of the heavy traffic reached all the way to the Mamplasan Exit.

Both northbound and southbound lanes of the Alabang viaduct were eventually reopened at 9:52 am.

In a statement sent by San Miguel Corporation (SMC), the parent company of SLEX operator South Luzon Tollway Corporation (SLTC), it said safety concerns prompted the temporary shutdown.

"We apologize to our motorists for the inconvenience caused by a residential fire near the Alabang northbound exit of the South Luzon Expressway," said SMC.

"High-tension power cables fell onto the Alabang viaduct main carriageway. Because of the imminent danger this situation posed to motorists, we closed [the Alabang viaduct]… to ensure the public’s safety," it added.

"We continue to work to ease the traffic buildup caused by this incident and have deployed additional personnel and traffic enforcers on site."

In an updated statement, SMC said the northbound Alabang exit plaza remains temporarily closed while the NGCP tower is being cleared. – Rappler.com