PETALING JAYA: Johor Fire and Rescue Department Director Othman Abdullah praised his staff for their efforts in controlling the fire at the Sultanah Aminah Hospital yesterday, Malay Mail Online (MMO) reported.
The state fire chief said the situation was brought under control in about 45 minutes after firefighters rushed to the hospital upon being notified at 8.56am, of the fire which had started at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
“Putting out the fire was manageable, but rescuing the critically ill victims was the toughest part of operations.
“Once the fire caught onto the mattresses, it spread rapidly and the smoke became very thick, impeding vision. It was hard for firemen to see anything, let alone locate the patients,” he was quoted as saying by the news portal.
He added that the firemen had to be very careful when evacuating patients along with the medical equipment that they were hooked on to.
“My men were divided into groups, some rescuing the victims and others putting out the fire,” Othman told MMO on the 160 personnel involved in operations and 10 fire trucks on the scene.
Meanwhile, the portal spoke to Othman’s deputy, Mohd Rizal Buang, who was one of the first on the scene yesterday morning.
Rizal, 40, spoke of the screams and panic on the second floor of the hospital where the fire had broken out.
“As soon as we reached the affected area via the windows, we could hear screams and saw people running back and forth trying to escape the fire.
“We ordered the staff and patients to break all the windows to ventilate the building as it was so full of smoke. We could hardly see what was in front of us,” Rizal was quoted as saying by MMO.
He added that he managed to push a stretcher with a badly burnt victim on it out of the ICU.
He related how trying to get the people out of the ICU was also a major task as the fire in the south wing (ICU area) was right at the doorway, which meant patients and medical staff were trapped inside.
“My focus was to send out as many people as I could from the affected area to safety, which in this case is outside the ward.
“So I held on to a hospital staff, wrapped my arms around him, then barged into the fire. We both pushed the stretcher towards the next building using the corridor and took a lift down,” Rizal said, according to MMO.
“As I reached the ground floor with the victim on the stretcher, medical officials attended to the victim.”
This patient was later identified as Choo Lin Fung, 37, who was reported to have died.
He added that when he tried to go into the second floor again it was almost impossible to enter the ICU with the fire spreading rapidly.
“Most of you might think we are crazy because people are jumping out of windows and we are going in, but it is just what we do,” Rizal was quoted as saying, about the dangers he was trained to face in the course of his work.