Thick smoke, intense heat hampered rescue
> Firefighters faced big challenge to save ICU patients on ventilators
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.