KUALA LUMPUR • Three people were killed and dozens injured yesterday when a powerful explosion rocked a shopping mall in Kuching, in the East Malaysian state of Sarawak.
State fire and rescue department director Khirudin Drahman confirmed that three men were killed in the 3.30pm blast at CityOne Megamall. They were identified as Mr O Kui Lim, 49, and Mr Tchee Kiam Jong, 24, both from Sarawak, and Mr Chin Hsien Loong, 29, from Penang.
Mr Wan Abdul Mubin, head of the Kuching fire and rescue department, told Agence France-Presse that 39 officers were scrambled to the scene after an emergency call was received. "It is one of the worst tragedies in the state in years. But it is not a bomb," he said.
Mr Khirudin noted that two of the deceased were workers at the Nene Chicken food outlet on the ground floor of the mall. The outlet was being renovated and was scheduled to officially reopen today.
A total of 26 people were injured in the incident, with four of them in critical condition.
The cause of the explosion is still being investigated, but initial reports said it could have been caused by a leaking gas tank.
A video clip of the aftermath showed the facade of the store torn apart, with some people screaming for help.
"I was purchasing pizza in front of the shop when suddenly a strong explosion occurred," Mr George Sting, 39, told Bernama. "The workers in the shop immediately ran out," he said, adding that some were seriously injured.
Ms Wina Simion, 46, said she was sitting nearby 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.
Other witnesses told The Star that the explosion caused the ceiling at a section of the mall to collapse.
A victim, who wanted to be known only as Benny, said he was installing beverage equipment when the blast happened.
"The wall fell and hit me. Everyone was in a panic," he said, adding that there were about 20 people in the vicinity at the time.
Spanning 1.5 million sq ft spread across four storeys, CityOne houses 400 retail outlets and is Sarawak's largest commercial development.
The mall announced yesterday that it was closed to the public with immediate effect due to the explosion.
BERNAMA, THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE