KUALA LUMPUR: Nurse A. Saras said she thought it was a fire drill when she heard the alarm at Hospital Kuala Lumpur.
“I was having lunch when the alarm went off.
“There was no panicking. We thought it was a fire drill as the hospital conducts regular drills,” said the 33-year-old.
She and her colleagues then helped everyone to gather at the designated area.
“Only when we were outside did we realise that it was a real fire,” she told The Star of the fire which broke out at the National Institute of Forensic Medicine in the hospital at 12.20pm yesterday.
Another hospital employee, Sharil Hussein, 37, who was off-duty, said he rushed over after hearing about the fire from a colleague.
“When I got there the firemen had just arrived. We broke through one of the padlocked gates to get to two staff who were up on the roof.
“They were unhurt and seemed calm,” he said.
The two were a technician and a cleaner, both women in their 40s.
The fire brought the main hospital in the city to a brief standstill as the alarm rang throughout the facility.
An electrical short circuit is suspected to be the cause of the fire, which was mainly contained within the storage room.
City Fire and Rescue Department director Khirudin Drahman said the situation could have been much worse had it spread to about 163 oxygen tanks stored in another room nearby.
“Thanks to the quick action of the hospital’s engineering team that moved the tanks as well as shut off the electricity and the oxygen pipeline in the vicinity, a larger disaster was avoided,” he said.
It was also fortunate that on a Saturday, only two people were working in the building.
“During the fire, both went up to the roof as the smoke had obscured the exits. We managed to get to them via an external staircase that had been padlocked,” Khirudin said at the scene.
Patients and staff were evacuated from nearby buildings in an orderly fashion, he added.
“The patients in these buildings are not critically ill so most were able to walk out. Some who couldn’t were wheeled out on beds and wheelchairs,” he said.
Operations resumed shortly after the fire was put out at about 1.30pm.
“We are working to restore the electricity and oxygen supply,” he said.
Some biochemical materials, including 19 cadavers, were also moved temporarily during the fire as they had been kept in freezers that had to be shut off, he added.
“The materials and cadavers will be moved back once the electricity is restored,” said Khirudin.
The storeroom on the ground floor, where the fire is believed to have started, kept equipment for conducting post-mortems.
“The materials are easily flammable so the fire spread quickly. The prayer room above the storeroom was also razed but the rest of the building remains largely intact,” he said.
Thirty-nine firefighters were involved in the operation, with four fire engines and a hazmat vehicle.
A full investigation is underway to determine the cause of the fire.
Meanwhile, the hospital’s emergency physician Dr Alzamani Mohammad Idrose wrote on Facebook that the hospital has a contingency plan to ensure smooth operation during emergencies.