A FACTORY processing polystyrene in the Prai Industrial Area was razed in a fire, sending many workers scurrying out of the building for fear of inhaling toxic fumes.
Firemen at the scene had to wear gas masks to avoid breathing in the noxious fumes.
The fire, which broke out at about 2pm yesterday, also caused a loud explosion at the factory, which was located close to a Petronas petrochemical plant.
Contract worker See Chang Wah, 38, who tried to help douse the fire, cut his finger on a fire extinguisher.
“I was repairing a machine in the factory when I suddenly heard some of the workers screaming.
“Most of them fled as the fire spread very quickly.
“I had to eventually run out as the thick smoke was suffocating me,” he said when met outside the factory premises in Lorong Perusahaan 3, Prai.
He received minor treatment from Malaysian Red Crescent Society volunteers, who arrived in an ambulance later.
Penang Fire and Rescue Depart- ment chief Azmi Tamat said a few barrels of raw polystyrene material, which had earlier arrived in a container trailer, went up in flames.
The hot weather and strong winds caused the fire to spread fast, he said, adding that almost 90% of the factory was destroyed.
“We arrived at the scene at 2.30pm after receiving a distress call at 2.27pm before bringing the fire under control by 3.01pm.
“We managed to prevent the fire from engulfing a metal stamping factory at the back, which was partially damaged,” he said.
He said 49 firemen on six fire engines from the Prai, Butterworth, Bukit Mertajam and Jalan Perak (George Town) fire stations were deployed to the scene.
They were assisted by several firefighters from the Chain Ferry, Raja Uda and New Ferry voluntary firefighting teams.
The cause of the fire and losses have yet to be determined.