‘We heard cries for help’

GEORGE TOWN: Mohamad Ikhthiar, 38, had just walked out of his work area in Bayan Lepas here when the earth shook with a loud rumble. And then, everything came tumbling down.

Right before his eyes, large concrete beams, along with thousands of rods from scaffolding supports in the mid section of the building, crashed down, bringing down with them several of his fellow workers and burying them underneath.

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“They were crying for help from under the rubble. But there was nothing we could do,” said the Bangladeshi.

“We were shocked to see the heavy beams falling and stacked one upon another,” he said, adding that none of the beams could be moved without the help of powerful machinery.

Mohsir, 50, said he too had just left the construction site minutes before the mishap.

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“A group of us had gone to perform prayers while others continued with work at the site. Minutes after, we got a phone call telling us about the tragedy.

“I don’t know who exactly the victims are but they’re definitely people I know. And now, they are gone,” he said, adding that he had been working at the site for about five months.

On Tuesday night, the building under construction in Bayan Lepas collapsed at about 9.50pm, with nine Bangladeshi workers said to be working then.

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Three of them – Md Ahed Ali, 42, Mohamad Mokaddes Ali, 46, and Mohammad Sayful Islam, 29 – were killed in the tragedy.

Two others, Md Uzzal Mridha, 30, and Md Razu Ahamad, 33, are said to be badly injured.

Another four workers, who were initially thought to be pinned under the rubble, managed to escape to safety.

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Penang deputy police chief Deputy Comm Datuk Mohamed Usuf Jan Mohamad said police managed to track them down in Bayan Lepas at 4pm yesterday, some 14 hours after the incident.

“We dug up the entire scene, used K-9 units and deployed the drone to search for them but could not locate them.

“Investigations later found that they were at the scene during the incident but fled right after that.

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“We believe they fled for fear of being investigated over the incident,” he told reporters after announcing the end of the search and rescue operation at 6.30pm yesterday.

A total of 188 rescue personnel from various agencies were involved in the operation.

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