Thursday September 29, 2011
Mall closed after gas blast
Reports by MARTINC ARVALHOS, TEVEND ANIEL,L EEY ENM UN, JOSEPH KAOSJ r, THO XINY I and RASHVNI JEETS . BEDI
SUBANG JAYA: Empire Shopping Gallery has been closed as the authorities scrambled to determine the cause of a gas explosion which rocked the building, injuring four people.
The closure, which covers the entire complex that houses a hotel, commercial and residential units, is effective until the structures are declared safe by the authorities.
Empire Shopping Gallery is one of the most frequented and popular shopping malls here, attracting thousands of shoppers daily.
The explosion, which occurred at the ground floor of the five-storey mall at about 3.45am yesterday, also tore into the adjoining office block and studio apartments. Two other floors in the shopping complex were also damaged.
Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim said: “For the time being, the complex will be closed pending investigations by the Fire Department and police.”
“Then, engineers, consultants, property owners and the local council will be allowed in to inspect the building before it is declared safe,” he told reporters after visiting the scene yesterday.
It is learnt that Energy Commission investigations will take several days to ensure the gas piping system is safe for operation.
Initial inspection by the owners' engineers and architects revealed the building's main structure was not affected by the explosion.
“I was given the assurance by the owners' professional teams of engineers and architects that the structure of the building is not affected,” Khalid said, adding that this would have to be verified by local council engineers.
He said public safety was the main concern and the complex would be temporarily closed.
To speed up the safety verification process, Khalid said local council engineers would work closely with consultant engineers to give on-the-spot decisions during inspections.
Mall management company Mammoth Empire Holdings Sdn Bhd's group chief director Datuk Danny J.Y. Cheah confirmed that the building's main structure was still intact, noting that the damage was confined to glass panels, ceiling boards and several brick walls “mainly due to the rapid expansion of air during the explosion”.
About 300 people were rescued and evacuated, including some 170 hotel guests who were relocated to nearby hotels for safety reasons, he said.
The effects of the explosion reached both ends of the mall, and all five levels recorded some form of damage.
Several windows as high up as the eighth floor of the 12-storey office tower were also shattered.
“We are not able to ascertain losses at this point in time,” Cheah said, adding that the mall was occupied by 180 tenants.
Mall general manager May Woo said all operations had been halted until further notice in the interest of public safety.
A preliminary report on the investigations is expected to be released by the fire forensics team within the next 48 hours, she said in a statement last night.
“We have taken the decision to halt operations as safety is our highest priority. We assure our tenants that this decision has been made after carefully considering all factors and advice from the authorities.
“I urge all parties to refrain from speculation and allow the authorities to carry out their investigations. We are also anxious to find out what caused this incident,” she said.
The public can get updates via various channels, including the mall's website (www.esg.com.my), Facebook (www.facebook/esg.com.my) and Twitter (Empire SHGallery.com). Alternatively, they can call 018-701 2880.
Malaysian Association for Shopping and Highrise Complex Management president H.C. Chan recommended regular maintenance of gas supply systems in shopping malls.