Explosion at Petronas-Aramco refining complex in Malaysia's Johor kills 5

This is the second fire at the Pengerang Integrated Complex in less than a year. PHOTO: ST FILE

KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS, THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A fire and explosion occurred at the Pengerang refining and petrochemicals complex in Malaysia's southern state of Johor, leaving five dead.

The incident occurred on Sunday (March 15) night and an emergency response team had been activated, state news agency Bernama reported on Monday, citing the Petronas-Saudi Aramco joint venture that runs the operation.

Johor Senior Assistant Fire Commander Abdul Rahman Azezulkifle said in a statement that the rescue operation is still ongoing, as of 11.15am on Monday.

"We have recorded a total of seven victims, with one escaping safely, another suffering burns up to 70 per cent, four confirmed dead and one missing," he said.

The missing victim was later found dead, bring the number of fatalities to five.

Abdul Rahman added that the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Pauzan Ahmad, an official with the Johor state fire and rescue department, told Bernama the blaze occurred at the diesel hydro treater unit in the Pengerang complex.

Petronas directed queries to the joint venture company Pengerang Refining and Petrochemical (PRefChem), which has not responded to a Reuters request for comment.

Johor Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar on Mondayconveyed his condolences to the families of the victims.

"I am very saddened by the incident. May Allah grant strength to the families of the victims," he told the Royal Press Office here.

His message was uploaded to the Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar official Facebook page.

This is the second fire at the Pengerang Integrated Complex (PIC) in less than a year.

In April 2019, an explosion and fire occurred at the plant's atmospheric residue desulphurisation unit (ARDS), a unit that removes sulphur from fuel oil, which is then used to produce gasoline in a residue fluid catalytic cracker.

There were no casualties in the April fire, and Petronas said commercial operations at the refinery would start on time by end-2019. The ARDS has been scheduled for operation by mid-2020, Petronas has said.

The refinery, which will process around 300,000 barrels per day of crude oil once fully operational, is expected to sell fuel to customers in Malaysia and across South-east Asia.

The PIC also includes a petrochemical complex with annual production capacity of 3.3 million tonnes.

Petronas and Saudi Aramco each have a 50 per cent stake in PRefChem.

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