GEORGE TOWN, Nov 29 — The Fire and Rescue Department said today it has to switch strategies for the fourth time to shift a 33-tonne beam that is hampering works to recover four victims trapped underneath the rubble of a collapsed warehouse construction site in Bayan Lepas here.
Its deputy state director Fire Assistant Commissioner Zulfahmi Sutaji said the department has tried three times to shift the beam to no avail as it is interlocked with other components and debris on the site.
“I’m going in after this for the fourth attempt to shift it so that rescuers can safely continue with the search and recovery works for the remaining victims,” he told reporters outside the site today.
He said the 33-tonne beam was the one that fell last night, triggering the collapse of numerous other beams.
In the 9.48pm incident last night, the beam fell and brought down 14 other beams along with the nine workers who were working on the first level of the structure 18 metres above ground level.
Last night, two workers were found dead at the scene, one died on the way to the hospital and two were seriously injured.
“The search area is not large, it is about the size of a volleyball court,” Zulfahmi said.
A volleyball court is 18 metres long and nine metres wide.
He said initially, they had expected search and rescue works to be straightforward but after assessing the situation, they realised that the collapse had caused various components of the structure including wet cement to be unstable.
“The cement has hardened after 12 hours but it is still porous, and not compact, so when we pull on one part, it will cause another section to shift,” he said.
He said the four victims are believed to be trapped under the hardened concrete as they were believed to be mixing the cement when the incident happened last night.
“The consultant engineer of the project is also assisting us in this,” he said.
When asked if recovery works can be completed by today, he said hopefully.
He said the current hot weather is good for the work to continue smoothly.
He said the K-9 unit is on standby currently and the special tactical operation and rescue teams from Penang, Perak and Kedah are also present to assist in the search and recovery efforts.
All of the victims are Bangladeshi workers aged between 22 and 46 years old.