KUCHING, Dec 4 — An explosion at the CityONE mall here has claimed the lives of three people, with four others in critical condition.
Sarawak Fire and Rescue Department chief Khirudin Drahman said two of those killed were from Sarawak and the other from Penang.
“The three were killed when the walls collapsed on them after the explosion,” he told reporters at the scene.
The deceased were identified by the Civil Defence Department as O Kui Lim, 49, and Tchee Kiam Jong, 24, from Sarawak and Chin Hsien Loong, 29, from Penang.
Khirudin said that two of the deceased were employees of Nene Chicken, a fast food restaurant, which was undergoing final preparations for its opening day tomorrow.
He said 22 other people were hurt in the explosion which was believed to have been caused by a leaking gas cylinder.
Khirudin said they were alerted on the explosion at 3.37pm.
“More could have been injured or died as they were not around when the explosion occurred. They were having lunch somewhere else,” he said, explaining that most of the victims were workers of the restaurant.
Local Government and Housing Minister Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian, who is at the scene, urged the public not to make unnecessary speculations.
“We must be responsible and not spread unnecessary speculations on social media,” he told reporters, referring to Facebook posts that the explosion was related to racial conflict.
He also appealed to the people to let the police and the Fire Department perform their investigation.
The mall, the largest in Kuching, is located near a busy intersection between the residential area of Tabuan Jaya and the Kuching International Airport some five minutes away.
With 1.5 million sq ft of gross space spread across four storeys, the mall has some 400 retail outlets, including the only Metrojaya departmental store in Sarawak.
Following the explosion, the mall’s management said on its Facebook page that the mall be closed with immediate effect until further notice.
Nene Chicken also took to Facebook after the incident, posting: “Dear customers, we are aware of the incident at CityOne, and we will update the news further when we have more information. Our thoughts are with all those affected by the incident.”