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BUTTERWORTH: Quick action by firefighters averted a major disaster at the Butterworth Esso fuel tank farm after 25 wooden shops located five metres away were razed in a fire late Thursday.
The 11.15pm fire near the temporary Penang Sentral bus terminal also left more than 20 people who were renting in the wooden houses in the area homeless.
However nobody was injured in the incident but most of the victims did not manage to rescue their belongings.
The incident also left dozens of express bus passengers stranded for more than one hour after the buses leaving for the last trip could not leave the terminal as the area was cordoned.
The state Fire and Rescue Department director Azmi Tamat said they received the first call at 11.39pm and five fire engines from the Butterworth, Prai, Perda stations with 34 firefighters rushed to the scene.
They were assisted by 157 volunteer firefighters from Seberang Perai, Penang island and Lunas, Kedah and the Penang Port Sdn Bhd fire brigade.
Azmi said the wooden premises were highly flamable and the whole 100m by 100m square area was engulfed in fire within minutes.
"We had to move quickly to control the fire as we feared for the worst that it would pose grave danger to the nearby fuel tank farm.
We managed to control the fire within 25 minutes and the Esso fuel tank farm authority had activated its water sprinklers to cool down the tanks," he told Pressmen at the scene.
Among the businesses affected were express bus ticketing agents, sundry shops, telecommunication shops, foodstalls, motorcycle parking area and a motorcycle workshop.
A victim Haron Wahab, 40, who operates a telecommunication and dry fruits stall, said the fire started from one of the wooden houses behind his shop.
"The fire spread so fast, I only managed to grab my laptop and some handphone reload cards before fleeing," said Haron.
He estimated his losses at about RM70,000.
Another victim Indrawarni Mahmud, 38, who operates a bakso stall said she was asleep with her four children when she was awakened by her husband.
"I only managed to grab my bag and important documents before immediately dashing out from the upper floor," she said.