SHAH ALAM, Oct 4 — The deaths of six rescuers while on a mission in a mining pool at Taman Putra Perdana, Puchong last night was the worst case of serviceman fatality in history, according to Fire and Rescue Department of Malaysia director-general Mohammad Hamdan Wahid.
He added that there have also never been so many personnel deaths in a single rescue operation.
Faced with a barrage of questions on how the servicemen could have perished on a mission, Mohammad Hamdan sought to make one thing clear: the six had followed the standard operating procedure (SOP) and were not derelict in their duties.
He related that their on-site supervisor confirmed that the six had used ropes to tie themselves together to buoys and in case one of them fell.
But they have had to improvise their tactics due to the conditions at the mining pool during the search-and-rescue (SAR) for a 17-year-old boy reported to have fallen in earlier.
And then there was the heavy downpour in the area, which raised water levels in the pool and resulted in strong undercurrents in the depths.
“They had formed a human chain in an attempt to reach a nearby floodgate where they believed the drowned victim was located but one of the personnel missed his footing as they traversed the water.
Amat menyayat hati dan pilu mengenang wira2 terdiri dri 6 anggota @bombaJBPM yang terkorban.— Dzulkefly Ahmad (@DrDzul) October 4, 2018
Salam Takziah buat keluarga yg kehilangan insan yg tersayang. Didoakan semoga roh mereka dicucuri rahmat dan ditempatkan bersama yang mulia. pic.twitter.com/bETNh6WV5e
“Strong undercurrents caused by heavy rain earlier then dragged all of them into a whirlpool where they subsequently drowned,” Mohammad Hamdan told reporters attending the funeral prayers at the Section 15 Fire and Rescue Station here today.
It is believed that the firemen had attempted to maneuver across a weir across the mining pool, but were trapped by recirculating water under it.
Asked why SAR operations were conducted at night and not called off due to limited illumination, Mohammad Hamdan said usually such operations would be called off but could be disregarded if someone’s life was at stake.
“During an emergency, we will continue with our SAR operations depending on the situation.
“However we believed we must improve the existing SOP to avoid a repeat of this tragedy,” he said.
He also clarified that the personnel did not attempt a dive rescue but were merely conducting surface rescue when they were pulled into the water by strong undercurrents.
Mohammad Hamdan also said the next-of-kin would be compensated through the agency’s welfare fund for personnel killed in the line of duty.
The six firemen were accorded full ceremonial honours in a final send-off after the completion of their autopsy at Hospital Serdang.
About 500 people attended the prayers and paid their last respects to the victims before they were brought to their respective hometowns for burial.
The six deceased have been identified as:
1. Mohd Fatah Hashim, 34, from Kuantan, Pahang
2. Izatul Akma Wan Ibrahim, 32, from Rantau Panjang, Kelantan
3. Mazlan Omarbaki, 25, from Tawau, Sabah
4. Yahya Ali, 24, Mukah, Sarawak
5. Muhammad Hifdzul Malik Shaari, 35, from Pasir Mas, Kelantan
6. Adnan Othman, 33, from Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan
All personnel were attached to the Pelabuhan Klang and Shah Alam Fire and Rescue Department.