Cuenca fire chief Oswaldo Ramirez believes a short circuit was to blame for a Saturday night fire that destroyed one room and damaged two others in Iglesia Santo Domingo, on the corner of Gran Colombia and Padre Aguirre in Cuenca’s historic district.
It was the second fire in the historic district in a little more than a year. Large portions of Seminario San Luis, adjacent to the cathedral, were destroyed in an August 12, 2012 fire, apparently the result of errant fireworks. That fire caused more than $5 million in damages and restoration work there continues.
According to Ramirez, the Santo Domingo fire started in a music room next to the church sanctuary. The fire was detected quikcly, he said, and fire fighters were able to extinguish it in about 20 minutes. He said that sound proofing material in the room was highly combustible and burned quickly. The ceiling of the music room was destroyed and two adjoining rooms also suffered damage.
Ramirez said said there was no structural damage to the 18th century landmark, which fronts Santo Domingo Plaza, a popular venue for concerts and crafts fairs.
About 80 firefighters responded to the fire which authorities say started at about 9:00 p.m.
Correa discusses Coopera during his weekly broadcast
President Rafael Correa spent 15 minutes of his weekly television broadcast on Saturday discussing Coopera, the Cuenca financial cooperative that was shut down by the government in June.
As he did during a Thursday meeting in Cuenca with representatives of Coopera account holders, Correa said that the government could not provide financial support to unpaid account holders although he did say all account holders should receive some of their money back. “The constitution prohibits the use of public funds to resolve problems with prívate banking institutions,” he said.
The president said he hoped a new law, passed in 2012, will prevent future cases similar to that at Coopera. “Poor regulation of cooperatives has existed for years,” he said. “Embezzlement and money laundering have cost depositors millions and millions of dollars. The new law will provide more oversight. I just wish it had been in place in time to save Coopera.”
He said that Coopera management had falsified financial records to cover up theft and money laudering. He also said that management had been misappropriating money for personal and family use. “They are now in jail, which is where they should be,” he said.
Correa said that the government is looking at ways to maintain Coopera’s food markets and to assist farmers and other suppliers who depend on the markets, which remain open. He also said that the government is also looking at establishing scholarships for the children of Coopera members who lose money.
Photo captions: A fire truck at Iglesgia Santo Domingo Saturday night; President Rafael Correa