Three individuals died, while 28 others were injured after a powerful blast at City One Megamall in Jalan Song, Kuching, that was believed to be caused by a gas explosion at 3.30 pm here today.
Kuching district police chief Ng Ah Lek said the three victims who died were identified as O Kui Lim, 49, and Tchee Kiom Joong, 24, who were both from Kuching.
“While the other victim, Chin Hsien Loong, 29, was from Butterworth, Penang,” he said when contacted today.
The two dead men were believed to be workers of Nene Chicken, a restaurant in the City One Megamall.
They were confirmed dead at the scene when the building structure crashed on them during the explosion at 3.30pm today.
The police chief also confirmed that there were a total of 26 people who were injured, four of whom were in critical condition and admitted in the intensive care unit of the Sarawak General Hospital.
In the incident, 28 others were injured, including four who were in severe condition.
Fire and Rescue Operations assistant director Tiong Ling Hii said the other injured victims had also been taken to a government hospital for further treatment.
Tiong said the gas explosion was believed to be from a restaurant that was undergoing last-minute renovations as it was expected to officially open tomorrow.
A witness, George Sting, 39, said the explosion occurred at a shop which was under renovation.
"I was purchasing a pizza in front of the restaurant (under renovation) when suddenly, a strong explosion occurred.
"The workers in the shop (being renovated) ran out, and some of them were seriously injured," he told Bernama when met at the scene.
Grace Lee, 23, a sales assistant at a telecommunications shop near the scene, said she was entertaining a customer at her shop when she heard the loud sound.
"The shopping mall's management immediately made an emergency announcement to inform visitors to get out of the shopping mall," she said.
Wina Simion, 46, said she was sitting near the premises enjoying lunch with her family members when the incident occurred.
"Our family was enjoying pizza at a restaurant here, and suddenly, we were shocked by the explosion from the store, which also caused our table to fly up," she said.
As at 9.27pm tonight, rescue and search operations for victims were terminated after no more victims were detected buried under the debris of the building's structure using the Fire and Rescue Department K9 Canine Unit.
Deputy Chief Minister Amar Douglas Uggah, who is also State Disaster Management Committee chairman, who was at the scene tonight, said the case would be handed over to the department to identify the cause of the explosion.
Meanwhile Padungan assemblyperson Wong King Wei, when met at the scene, said he would seek the attention of the Human Resource Ministry for stricter guidelines for workers at the workplace as well regulations for employers to be complied with following the incident.
Preliminary investigation by the Fire and Rescue Department revealed that the incident was believed to have been caused by a gas pipe leak which then entered the premises which was being renovated.
In its Facebook account, City One Megamall had given notice that the premises would be closed to the public with immediate effect until further notice following the gas explosion.