Thick smoke, in­tense heat ham­pered res­cue

> Fire­fight­ers faced big chal­lenge to save ICU pa­tients on ven­ti­la­tors

The Sun (Malaysia) - - NEWS WITHOUT BORDERS - BY LOW SOCK KEN AND TI­MOTHY ACHARIAM

JOHOR BARU: Thick bil­low­ing smoke, dark­ness and in­tense heat ham­pered the speed at which pa­tients from the In­ten­sive Care Unit of the Sul­tanah Ami­nah Hos­pi­tal (HSA) here were evac­u­ated on Tues­day.

Johor Fire and Res­cue Depart­ment op­er­a­tions com­man­der Ibrahim Omar, who re­called the res­cue and evac­u­a­tion op­er­a­tion, said: “It was a big chal­lenge for fire­fight­ers to evac­u­ate pa­tients who were on ven­ti­la­tors and life-sup­port equip­ment. The ICU was en­gulfed with smoke. It was dark and there were so many ma­chines and equip­ment in­side.”

He and a 16-mem­ber team ar­rived at 9am and man­aged to safely evac­u­ate one out of the seven peo­ple in­side the ICU.

“We man­aged to evac­u­ate the first pa­tient at 9.12am. We were only able to re­move the six who suc­cumbed at 10.55am. It was sad that we could not save them,” said Ibrahim.

He re­it­er­ated that what ham­pered their ef­fort was the thick smoke, dark­ness and the fall­ing ceil­ing boards.

“By the time we ar­rived, the ma­jor­ity of the staff had left the build­ing safely,” said Ibrahim.

On the foren­sic tests done by the depart­ment to­gether with the Pu­tra­jaya Fire and Res­cue head­quar­ters, he said the re­sults should be known within two weeks.

While wait­ing for the re­sults, he urged peo­ple not to spec­u­late and cre­ate un­nec­es­sary fear and ten­sion as it will have a neg­a­tive im­pact.

Ibrahim ad­vised the pub­lic to look out for emer­gency exit doors while in­side a build­ing so that they are aware of the di­rec­tion to es­cape in the event of a fire.

Mean­while, se­ri­ous doubts have been cast over the safety of the Sul­tanah Ami­nah Hos­pi­tal af­ter police and the Fire and Res­cue Depart­ment shut down the main build­ing of the hos­pi­tal for 24 hours.

Fire en­gines and fire­men will be sta­tioned out­side the hos­pi­tal around the clock af­ter it was evac­u­ated for the sec­ond time yes­ter­day due to a “fire scare”.

Johor Fire and Res­cue Depart­ment op­er­a­tion di­vi­sion as­sis­tant di­rec­tor Mohd Rizal Buang said that the main block of the hos­pi­tal had been shut down for 24 hours to as­cer­tain its safety.

Ibrahim said the ICU was not equipped with fire sprin­klers.

“As the build­ing is old, there were no sprin­klers in the ward. There are wa­ter sprin­klers, but most wards, in­clud­ing the ICU, don’t have sprin­klers ex­cept at the cor­ri­dors.”

Per­maisuri Johor Raja Zarith Sofiah with the wife of the Crown Prince of Johor Che Puan Khaleeda Bus­ta­mam (sec­ond from right) vis­it­ing one of the in­jured vic­tims.

The dam­aged ICU ward.

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