The fatal explosion at Cityone Megamall on Tuesday (Dec 4) is one of the most shocking incidents to have happened in Kuching in recent memory.
It's tragic that three lives were lost and 41 people injured, some seriously, in the blast.
As it stands, we still do not know the full facts of what happened as the authorities are still investigating.
What we do know so far is that the explosion occurred at about 3.30pm at the new NeNe Chicken outlet on the ground floor, which was undergoing final touch-ups in preparation for its scheduled opening the following day.
The Fire and Rescue Department's initial findings indicate that the explosion was likely to have been caused by a gas leak, while police have ruled out terrorism or criminal acts.
Besides the fire department and police, the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) is also investigating to see if safety regulations were complied with.
What's important now is for the authorities to conclude their investigations as swiftly as possible.
Cliched as this may sound, no stone must be left unturned in the probe in view of the incident's gravity and consequences.
It's equally crucial for the findings of the investigation to be made public, as called for by various parties. This is a matter of public interest and importance, which occurred in a public place and involved members of the public.
Disclosing the findings would promote transparency and accountability in matters of public safety, particularly if there was any negligence or violation of safety procedures.
Even if what happened was an accident, making the findings known would help to prevent similar incidents in future by recommending remedial measures and requiring strict compliance with safety standards.
Releasing the findings would also put a stop to unnecessary and unhelpful speculation on the cause of the incident. We always tell people not to speculate in cases like this. Well, the best way to prevent that is to disclose the facts and details of what actually happened.
Perhaps this should also prompt us to review our attitude towards safety. After all, it's not for nothing that we have safety regulations and procedures in place.
According to Persatuan Akitek Malaysia Sarawak Chapter (PAMSC), gas explosions are rare because "strict protocols" are implemented in properly designed and constructed buildings to protect the safety of workers and the public.
PAMSC offered some timely advice in the wake of the incident, recommending that major renovation works, such as testing and commissioning of equipment, in malls and similar buildings be done outside opening hours to protect the public from potential accidents.
It also said any weaknesses in safety must be addressed and incorporated into standard operating procedures of future renovation works to protect the safety of tenants and the public.
On a related note, PAMSC said it was working with the state Local Government and Housing Ministry, fire department and other stakeholders to review the Sarawak Building Ordinance to ensure that building by-laws are relevant and have high safety and health standards.
"We hope it will be tabled in the (Sarawak Legislative Assembly) sitting soon.
"We also hope that building owners and management will work hand in hand with the authorities concerned to ensure that the by-laws are upheld and that buildings comply with high standards of health and safety across our state," it said in a statement on Thursday (Dec 6).
This is a welcome development which hopefully will go towards improving safety standards and compliance in future.
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