My shirt was burned off, my body was burned black, recalls worker injured in Tuas blast

Mr Rahad Asfaquzzaman, who was hurt in a Tuas factory blast, testified at an inquiry committee on Sept 29, 2021. PHOTOS: KELVIN CHNG, ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Another worker has testified before an inquiry committee about the trauma he faced following a Feb 24 blast at a factory in Tuas.

On Wednesday (Sept 29), Mr Rahad Asfaquzzaman, 30, recalled how he had been flung 2m from the force of the explosion, and the traumatic events that continue to give him nightmares.

"After the explosion, I got up from the ground and realised I was burning. My shirt had burned off, leaving only some cloth around my neck and my pants on. I immediately tore what was left of my shirt off from my body," the Bangladeshi national said.

"I saw that my body had burned black and there was blood coming out from my mouth from inside my body."

Mr Rahad's facial scars - like those of the other injured workers who had testified before him - were visible beneath his mask.

He added: "I am unable to produce tears when I cry, and when I am under the sun, everything I see is a blur."

Mr Rahad is the fourth injured worker to testify before the committee, chaired by Senior District Judge Ong Hian Sun, that is looking into the causes and circumstances of the blast at 32E Tuas Avenue 11.

Three workers, Mr Subbaiyan Marimuthu, 38, Mr Anisuzzaman Md, 29, and Mr Shohel Md, 23, died from severe burns that covered 90 per cent of their bodies, while seven other workers, including Mr Rahad, were injured.

Eight of the workers were in a workshop at the time of the explosion. They were employed by Stars Engrg, which made an insulation material called fire wrap using the mixer machine.

The inquiry committee had earlier heard that the blast could have been linked to the mixer machine.

The machine heated up oil in a jacket, which then heated ingredients including potato starch in the mixer component.

On the day of the explosion, Mr Rahad recalled wearing a long-sleeve shirt, long pants, slippers and a cloth face mask as he was assigned to make the fire wrap at an assembly table.

Between 11am and 11.30am, Mr Rahad and another worker were about to place a completed fire wrap on the packing machine near the front shutters of the workshop when the blast occurred. He was standing just under the front shutters.

"I suddenly felt a huge push to the front of my body. I flew about 2m backwards from the force of the push, before landing on the ground," said Mr Rahad.

The workers ran to an open field and shouted for help. Workers from neighbouring units sprayed water on the burnt workers.

"My co-workers and I were screaming in pain," said Mr Rahad.

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The injured workers were taken to Singapore General Hospital's burns unit.

Mr Rahad suffered burns all over his body and underwent a skin grafting procedure for his hands. He continues to receive outpatient care.

"The accident has been very traumatic to me and I still get nightmares about it. My face has changed and I no longer look like how I used to. I have not been sleeping well since the accident due to emotional stress, and I often spontaneously awake from my sleep."

He added that he grieves the loss of his co-workers.

"This whole episode feels like a bad dream to me... I hope to feel better once I recover from my injuries and am able to return to my family in Bangladesh," he said.

The hearing continues on Wednesday afternoon with the statements of the three remaining injured workers and project engineer Lwin Moe Tun being heard.

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