JB hospital hit by 2nd fire; patients evacuated

Sultanah Aminah Hospital medical staff evacuating patients after a second fire yesterday, caused by a spark at an electrical socket exposed to water. On Tuesday, six patients died in a blaze at the hospital.
Sultanah Aminah Hospital medical staff evacuating patients after a second fire yesterday, caused by a spark at an electrical socket exposed to water. On Tuesday, six patients died in a blaze at the hospital.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

JOHOR BARU • Patients in Johor's biggest hospital were evacuated again yesterday after black smoke was detected emanating from a section at the facility, a day after a fire at a separate wing killed six patients.

The second fire yesterday was later found to have been caused by a spark at an electrical socket exposed to water in the operating theatre of the Sultanah Aminah Hospital in Johor Baru.

The incident led to the evacuation of patients for the second day running, following the tragic fire on Tuesday at the intensive care unit (ICU).

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said a board of inquiry will be set up to investigate the incident, the New Straits Times newspaper said yesterday. "A special task force will carry out forensic and facility management accounting," he was quoted as saying on Tuesday, following what the Malaysian media has described as the worst hospital fire in the country.

Health Minister S. Subramaniam said yesterday that his ministry will assess the fire safety precautions and readiness in hospitals nationwide, Malaysiakini quoted him as saying in Parliament.

"The ministry will conduct an audit on fire-preparedness of all hospitals under its purview in stages, beginning with older facilities," he said. "This is important to prevent a recurrence of the deadly blaze."

In the second incident yesterday, hospital staff acted quickly to smother the second fire after a spark at a plug point resulted in a lot of smoke emanating from the operating theatre, police said.

"The spark occurred at around 1.50pm when water from cleaning works on the second floor splashed into a plug point in the operation room on the first floor," said Johor Baru (South) district police head Sulaiman Salleh.

"The spark caused smoke to emit, but no one was injured due to the quick action of hospital staff," he told the media, as reported by The Star newspaper.

Mr Sulaiman said police had shut down various sections of the three-storey hospital building following Tuesday's fire, which the authorities believed could be caused by an electrical short circuit.

The four male and two female patients who died were all in the ICU. A male patient who was saved had 80 per cent burns on his body.

One of those killed was Ms M. Kaliama, who turned 23 on Tuesday. She was admitted to the hospital five days ago for epilepsy.

"It was her birthday today (Tuesday) and we were hoping to have her home this weekend" to celebrate Deepavali on Saturday, said her father K. Muniandy, 49. "I am totally devastated and am at a loss for words."

The Malaysian media yesterday praised the efforts of medical staff on Tuesday for evacuating hundreds of patients at the 1,206-bed facility. It also highlighted the donations of bottled water and food by companies and religious groups to patients and workers waiting in the grounds of the hospital.

Another much-talked-about incident in JB on Tuesday was the explosion of a big natural gas tank at a Petronas petrol station in Taman Mount Austin that killed a worker.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 27, 2016, with the headline 'JB hospital hit by 2nd fire; patients evacuated'. Print Edition | Subscribe