New Straits Times

SOP TO BE REVIEWED, SAYS DEPT D-G

Rescue team followed SOPs, says Hamdan

- TEOH PEI YING cnews@nstp.com.my

THE Fire and Rescue Department will review its search-and-rescue (SAR) standard operating procedures (SOP) that were followed to a T by six of its men who died in the tragic operation at a mining pool in Taman Putra Perdana here on Wednesday night.

Its director-general, Mohammad Hamdan Wahid, said a preliminar­y investigat­ion that was conducted immediatel­y after the incident, showed that the rescue team had adhered to the SOP and standard tactical strategy.

“Investigat­ions show that the area is used as a floodgate; not for recreation­al purposes. The SAR was launched near a waterfall as the rescue team believed that the victim was trapped there.

He told the New Straits Times that the team that was despatched to the area to rescue teenager Muhammad Ilham Fahmy Muhammad Azzam, who had drowned, was not pressured into entering the waterway as had been suggested.

“It is believed that the tragedy happened when one of the rescuers slipped and the others were dragged in as they conducted human-chain sweeping,” he told reporters after attending the funeral prayers and send-off ceremony at the Section 15 fire station, here, yesterday.

Hamdan also pointed out that the rescuers did not conduct any dives during the SAR.

He said the rescue operation did not require his men to gear up with scuba equipment as it was supposed to be a surface-water rescue.

“All the equipment needed for a surface-water rescue, was used by all the men.

“Everything was done in accordance with the SOP... Please don’t sensationa­lise their deaths by pointing fingers at us and suggesting that we did not use proper equipment.

“We’ve lost our men.”

At the press conference yesterday, Hamdan addressed the question of the timing of the operation, considerin­g it was already dark.

“Some questioned why we carried out the operation when it was already dark. In yesterday’s case, they conducted a surface-water rescue as the mining pool is about chest-deep. Hence they did not need scuba equipment.

“I have checked with their supervisor, they followed the SOP and tactical strategy for a surface-water rescue, but because the environmen­t was too challengin­g, it led to the tragic events which happened on Wednesday,” he said.

Asked why the operation was not called off, he said it was because it was a “live” rescue.

“When it’s an emergency and involves a life, we will continue the SAR operation. We will only call off an operation if it is a planned operation,” he explained.

Detailing what unfolded that fateful night, Hamdan said the six firemen drowned after they were sucked in by a deadly whirlpool created by strong currents at the mining pool.

They struggled to pull themselves out of the rolling water but were dragged under by the vortex.

“A whirlpool had formed at the area and a team on the banks said they saw the six struggling to get out.

“The team also took immediate action by pulling them out and administer­ed first aid but it was too late.”

He said early checks showed that a floodwall near the area had failed to contain the gushing floodwater brought about by heavy rain on Wednesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Sepang police chief Assistant Commission­er Abdul Aziz Ali said initial investigat­ions showed that the six rescuers had gotten themselves tangled up with a rope as they were dragged and tossed by strong currents at the scene.

“During the incident, the six were already in the water for nearly five minutes, looking for the missing teen.

“Suddenly, a strong current came gushing into the area, causing them to be dragged further down and tangled up by the rope that secured them to one another.

“Some of their equipment was also torn away during the incident,” he told reporters at the scene early yesterday morning.

Abdul Aziz said rescuers at the banks who saw the incident tried to pull the six men out but to no avail.

“The first victim managed to be pulled out after 30 minutes, but by this time, all of them were already unconsciou­s,” he said.

Hamdan said the family members would get compensati­on as stipulated under the regulation­s for civil servants.

“The Fire and Rescue Department has a welfare fund (Kumpulan Wang Kebajikan Bomba)... They will get the compensati­on. We will also assist the family members with their other needs,” he said, adding that this is the worst case of loss of life among the members of the fire-fighting and rescue community in the country.

In Shah Alam, the Selangor government has ordered the Sepang Municipal Council to seal off the mining pool in Taman Putra Perdana, Puchong.

Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari said the closure was necessary following several drowning cases reported in the area.

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