Tuesday January 1, 2013
Sad end for city’s iconic eatery
By LEONARD PHANG
KUCHING: One of the oldest and most popular eateries in the city came to a fiery end early yesterday morning, leaving owners of 10 shops here to face an uncertain new year.
The shops at the Batu Lintang hawker centre, which has been in existence for more than 50 years, were destroyed in less than an hour.
Batu Lintang fire chief Mohd Azlee Mohd Arus said his station received a distress call at 2.09am after a passer-by apparently witnessed an explosion at the hawker centre.
Twenty-eight firefighters in three fire engines from the Batu Lintang, Tabuan Jaya and Padungan stations immediately rushed to the scene. They managed to put out the blaze at about 2.50am.
“We faced no water pressure problem, just a slight delay because all the shops were locked (preventing the firemen from fighting the blaze in the shops). There were 15 shops at the hawker centre and we managed to save five,” he said.
Azlee said the cause of the fire was being investigated.
Wong Chee Heng, owner of shop No. 3, said other hawkers told him that they believed the fire had started from his shop.
Wong, 77, who operated a seafood business, estimated his losses to be more than RM20,000.
He said he had closed his shop at 10pm, checked everything was in order and left with his workers around midnight.
Owner of shop No. 6, known only as Lim, was saddened by the fire.
Lim, who ran a drink business, said he had just ordered a huge stock for Chinese New Year.
“I have been operating this business for more than 40 years. I hope the relevant authorities will rebuild the centre as this is my sole income to feed my family,” he said.
Two siblings who owned shop No. 5 and shop No. 8 also rushed to the scene.
Chuo Chong Hui, 36, who operated a seafood business at shop No. 8, said his shop suffered minor damage and he was grateful to the fire department for its quick action.
His brother, Chuo Chong Nam, 38, was not so lucky. His “Eat Garden” shop, which he had been running for more than two years, was completely destroyed.
Deputy Works Minister Datuk Yong Khoon Seng, who came to see the destruction caused by the fire, said a building insurance adjuster was at the centre to verify the losses suffered by the hawkers.
Yong hoped that the rebuilding process would not be delayed as most of the hawkers depended on their businesses to survive.