Eight-man forensic team to conduct probe into JB hospital fire

Hospital Sultanah Aminah staff and volunteers evacuating patients from the emergency and trauma ward after a second fire broke out at Sultanah Aminah Hospital here in Johor Baru on Oct 26.
PHOTO: The Star

JOHOR BARU: An eight-man Fire and Rescue Department forensics team has started piecing together the clues to determine the cause of the fire at Hospital Sultanah Aminah's (HSA) intensive care unit.

They have ruled out arson, ter­rorist attack or an explosion from a mobile phone which was charging in a room filled with oxygen tanks.

State Fire and Rescue Department director Othman Abdullah said the team had collected six samples for analysis.

"Our preliminary investigations showed that the fire started from a treatment room covering an areas of about 60sq m.

"We have collected samples of debris, wires, plastic and other carbonised materials for analysis.

"We expect to wrap up our investigations within a week," he said.

Until then, he said the ICU was off limits as it was a "crime scene".

Othman did not rule out the possibility that the fire was caused by electrical problems.

He said the fire started from one source and spread quickly as there were combustible items in the area.

"No gas tanks exploded as they are located at a different spot," he said, adding that false information was being spread on social media.

When firemen arrived at the scene at 9.12am on Tuesday, he said they immediately started to evacuate patients from the ICU.

At least 6 killed in fire at Johor Baru hospital

  • At least six patients have been killed in a fire that broke out at the intensive care unit of the Sultanah Aminah Hospital in Johor Baru.
  • Many of the patients were evacuated to other wards after the fire broke out at the building's top floor
  • Johor Baru (South) OCPD Asst Comm Sulaiman Salleh said the victims were all patients warded at the ICU, located on the second flood of the hospital's main building.
  • "We are in the midst of putting out all the smoke from the building and once it is cleared, then the authorities will be able to know the exact number of victims," he said when met at the scene here.
  • It is understood that patients in the maternity ward, including some who had just given birth, were evacuated safely.

"My men did their job. They did not know whether the victims were still alive or dead as they were hook­ed to monitors, wires and tubes.

"They took the patients out with their monitors," Othman said.

He said the firemen spent about 45 minutes to take the six patients out due to the thick smoke, heat, narrow pathway and debris.

He commended HSA's emergency response team (ERT) for swinging into action and helping to evacuate more than 400 patients within one hour.

"If everyone did not work toget­her to put out the fire, it could have easily spread to other parts of the hospital," he said.

He said part of the ceiling in the ICU had also collapsed and it was totally destroyed.

Asked about losses, Othman said the hospital was still estimating the costs and that there were a lot of expensive equipment in the ICU.

Meanwhile, checks by The Star at several wards in HSA found signages saying "Dilarang Cas Handphone" put up in many parts of the hospital, warning people against charging their phones there.

The notices were pasted on the walls besides every socket near hospital beds.

"This is not something new. We have put up signages even before the fire but many people did not follow the rules," said a nurse who declined to be named.

Another staff member, who wanted to be known only as Hani, said some patients even peeled off the lamina­ted sign to avoid being told off.