JOHOR BARU, Oct 27 — The heat was intense and smoke suffocating, but for the courageous firemen responding to the Sultanah Aminah Hospital blaze on Tuesday, they were merely living up to the saying it was just another day at work.
The more than 150 firefighters selflessly helped with evacuating the patients and putting out the blaze despite the perils they faced.
Relating the experience was Johor Baru Fire and Rescue Department station chief Ibrahim Omar, who himself carried patients to safety at the height of the fire.
Having reached the hospital within 10 minutes after being alerted, Ibrahim’s first priority was to get survivors out.
“The ward was already engulfed in thick smoke, making it difficult to breath and locate the patients,” he said.
Ibrahim said a patient on a bed next to the door was the first to be evacuated by rescue workers.
They returned to the scene to help other patients but faced several hurdles during the search-and-rescue operation.
“The patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) had drips and wires connected to machines. We found it hard as we were not sure which ones could be moved safely,” he said.
Although the rescue team members were equipped with oxygen masks, the presence of flammable items made their work even more hazardous.
“Bedsheets, mattresses, paper and plastic items caught fire quickly, causing the flames to shoot beyond control,” he said.
“We had to dash through flames and debris from the burning ceiling to try and get to the patients.”
Ibrahim, who has spent the last 34 years as a firefighter, said the tragedy could have resulted due to several factors.
“Water sprinklers are installed in the hospital, but not the whole building. There are several wards, including the ICU ward, which did not have sprinklers. There are however sprinklers at the corridors,”
Ibrahim, a father of two who hails from Malacca, said doctors and staff had tried to douse the flames, but the fire grew too fast.
“The hospital staff used the fire extinguisher and fire hose reel placed inside the ward to try and put out the flames but quickly lost control,” he said.
He declined comment on what could have triggered the blaze.