Explosion rips through Empire Gallery, four hurt
UPDATED @ 03:01:05 PM 28-09-2011
SUBANG JAYA, Sept 28 — Four people were hurt in an early morning explosion at the Empire Gallery shopping mall here, which was heard from as far away as Bangsar.
Eyewitnesses described a scene of chaos, with police, ambulances and the fire brigade still on the scene.
Police tracker dogs were also present, as were Fire and Rescue Department personnel from stations across Subang Jaya, Shah Alam, Damansara and Puchong to investigate the incident.
Subang Jaya OCPD ACP Zainal Rashid Abu Bakar told reporters at the scene that the blast was believed to have started in the basement and involved a gas pipeline.
“We have yet to determine the cause of the blast but damage is extensive, affecting the parking lot and many outlets on the basement level and even the ground floor,” he said.
“Our forensics team is still investigating. We have not been able to enter certain parts of the mall . . . the damage is too bad and the areas are sealed off.”
He confirmed that a distress call was received at 3.45am concerning the explosion at the mall, which is at the entrance of Subang Jaya from the Federal Highway.
Zainal Rashid added that four people — two security guards and a Chinese couple — were injured during the blast, sustaining minor scrapes and bruises.
Rescue workers are still combing the basement in search of more possible victims.
The two guards were initially trapped in the basement, but have since been rescued and sent to a hospital to treat their injuries. They were identified as K. Surendra Kris, 33, and Chrring Dawak Sepa, from Nepal.
The couple, sales executives Daryl Chua, 27, and his girlfriend Hibbie Tan, 23, were taken to hospital in an ambulance but have since been discharged.Nearly the entire stretch of the front portion of the newly-built mall was blown out, damaging a number of cafes, restaurants and clothing stores including Tangs and Starbucks Coffee.
Chua told reporters that he was walking with his girlfriend to an parking payment station a few steps from Starbucks when the explosion occurred about 3.30am.
“We were at La Bodega earlier for dinner and then we were just hanging out outside my car and talking," he said.
“Just as we were heading to the Autopay, there was a loud ‘boom’, like in the movies. I thought it was a bomb.”
Chua said he was “literally lifted off the ground” and thrown sideways several metres from the blast, lightly grazing both his arms.
The sound of breaking glass, falling debris and metal, and sirens broke the earlier silence, he said, leaving him in a momentary state of confusion and panic.
“And then the flames came up. It was all over, the entire front of the mall was razed. I thought I was going to die,” he said.
When the scene calmed slightly, Chua said he carried Tan, who had sprained her leg, to safety and noticed passers-by and nearby residents rushing to the scene.
His car, a black Volkswagen Golf GTI, was severely damaged.Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim tweeted this morning and prayed for the safety of the residents nearby.
Subang Jaya assemblyman Hannah Yeoh was also there, he added.
The shopping mall opened last year.
Yeoh told The Malaysian Insider she scrambled to get there after receiving a message on the Twitter micro-blogging service around 3am.
“The four injured have been taken to the hospital,” she said. "One broke his leg, apparently."
“The damage [to the building] is extensive. All of the lower floor all the way up to the second floor.”
The cause of the explosion was still not known, she said.
The police have sealed off the area, causing traffic jams in the vicinity during the morning rush hour.