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Storm wreaks havoc in Penang

June 14, 2013

Most serious incident was in Jalan Macalister when a 20-metre lighting arrestor atop the Umno building collapsed, leaving one person dead and eight others injured

UPDATED

GEORGE TOWN: An evening storm wreaked havoc in Penang today causing 20-metre lighting arrestor atop the Umno building in Jalan Macalister here to collapse, leaving one person dead and eight others injured.

Jahir Hussain Sulaiman, 46, the driver of a pick up truck who was seriously injured in the incident later died at the Penang Hospital.

His nephew Azharudeen Mohd Mohideen, 18, told reporters at the hospital’s mortuary at 11.30pm that his uncle had died.

The lighting arrestor had collapsed on his vehicle and six other vehicles that were parked below. The rest of the victims only sustained minor injuries.

Penang police chief Abdul Rahim Hanafi said the storm caused the the 20-metre lighting arrestor atop the Umno building in Jalan Macalister to collapse at around 6.45pm and damaged seven vehicles including the pick up truck.

He said the driver of the pick up truck had been seriously injured.

“In the Timur Laut district, eight areas were affected whereby trees fell but the most serious incident involved the lighting arrestor at the Umno building in Jalan Macalister toppling over.

“Two areas in Seberang Perai Tengah were affected, 10 areas in Seberang Perai Utara and one area in the Barat Daya district,” he told reporters at the scene of the disaster at Jalan Macalister last night.

Abdul Rahim said the impact of the lighting arrestor hitting the ground also caused an underground water mains to rupture.

He said the authorities would extend aid speedily to bring things back to normal and urged the public to give their cooperation.

“The people should not get angry with the resulting traffic gridlock and I will personally ensure the traffic will be smooth flowing again as soon as we can,” he said.

Situation stable

Meanwhile, Lebuh Pantai Fire and Rescue chief Ismail Mohd Zain said they were alerted to lighting arrestor collapse at 6.55pm.

“When we arrived, we found the lighting arrestor had come crashing down, damaging several vehicles. Seriously injured was the driver of the pickup truck which was laden with gas cylinders. The others sustained minor injuries.

“For now, the situation is stable and we just want to empty the area and check on the building, which we deem is safe because what fell was communication equipment fitted on the building and not structural elements,” he said.

A witness, Hafiz Mohamad Akhlaq, 32, the imam of the Pakistani mosque in the vicinity, said he was in the mosque when a loud sound as though an earthquake was happening.

“Luckily I was in the mosque waiting for dusk prayers. When I went out I saw the lighting arrestor had crushed a car,” he said.

Another witness, Mohd Yasin Hamid, 59, who was also in the same mosque, said he was grateful that the lighting arrestor did not fall on the mosque located just in front of the Umno building.

Meanwhile, Penang Umno deputy chief Musa Sheikh Fadzir said they would be leaving to the authorities to investigate the collapse and would give them full cooperation in the matter.

“If the fire and rescue department asks us to close the building temporarily we will do so, No problems for Umno. We will follow all directives given by the police and the fire and rescue Department,” he told reporters at the scene.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng visited the uprooted road site in Jalan Macalister. The area looked like an earthquake zone with damaged electricity cables, sewage and water pipelines.

Lim told reporters the state government would hold an emergency meeting to deliberate and decide on engaging a contractor to rebuild all affected residential and commercial buildings.

He said the contractor would be hired via direct tender as provided for by the law on emergency cases.

Act of God

He said the local council and public works department would also carry out thorough inspections on affected buildings after the dust had settled.

The 21-storey Umno Tower building owner JKP Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Adzmi Ariffin also visited the site and later pledged to provide aid to the victims, including to the family of Jahir.

Adzmi said the lighting arrestor structure fell when the concrete beam supporting it gave way and fell on to the road.

He said JKP would conduct its own investigation into the tragedy.

“It was an act of God, a natural disaster. It was unexpected,” he said.

Penang Gerakan secretary Dr Lim Boon Ben called on the state government and local authorities to intensify enforcement and increase preventive measures to protect public safety.

Last Thursday, an under-construction flyover linking to Penang Bridge 2 collapsed, killing one person and injuring several others, besides damaging vehicles.

Lim said owners and developers of high-rise buildings under construction should ensure adequate measures are in place, such as putting up safety nets, appropriate fencing and stronger scaffoldings.

He said Gerakan was concerned over the loss of lives and damages to property caused by the two incidents and would like to convey its condolence to the families concerned.

He said there were laws including municipal council by-laws to protect public safety against falling structures, trees, branches, etc.

“Of course we cannot stop or control natural disaster but we should take measures to reduce the impact and minimise loss of life and damage,” he said in a statement.


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