Short circuit sparks hospital fire chaos

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KUCHING: Amnah Mustafa supposed to undergo colon surgery today, but she had to run down seven floors down to safety, when black smoke filled her ward.

The 58 year old house wife was among the 100 patients who were taken to safety when fire broke out at the Sarawak General Hospital main utility shaft on Monday night.

"I smelled smoke at first, and then the ward was filled with it. Most of us panicked. I decided to immediately run downstairs before anything gets worst," said Amnah when met at the hospital lobby.

In the 8.15pm incident, most patients at the main wing of the hospital were told to leave their wards. Those who can walk took the stairs down, those bed bound are taken downstairs using the elevators.

Another patient, Andrew Mingku, 21 was surprised when he was suddenly pushed out of the ward in the midst of the chaos. "I wasn't aware of anything as I was asleep when chaos broke in my ward. I was told there was fire somewhere in the building," he said.

Nearly three hours since the fire broke, patients are allowed to return to their respective wards in stages by 11pm. The fire destroyed the main supply cables to the hospital's operation theatre and MRI room.

Hospital Director Dr Abdul Rahim Abdullah said the damages would cost more than RM200,000 but they are working on getting them back in order as soon as possible.

"We expect our operating theatre to be fully operational by midnight today, while for our MRI room, the latest would be by next Monday," said Abdul Rahim when met yesterday.

Following the damages, a total of 334 patients are relocated to nearby hospitals in stages. Some are relocated to Normah Medical Specialist Centre, KPJ Specialist Centre and Sarawak General Hospital Heart Centre in Kota Samarahan.

"The utility shaft was completed 12 years ago and we are giving full assistance to the Fire and Rescue Department in their investigation," said Abdul Rahim.
Meanwhile, Fire and Rescue Department director Nor Hisham said the fire is finally put out at 1am.

"Initial investigation shows that the fire broke out due to short circuit and the carbon insulation made it a good conductor for the fire to burn for a long time," said Nor Hisham Mohammad.

He also said they had to use a crane to gain access to the shaft where it is filled with abandoned plywood making it a good conductor for the fire to spread.


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