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Kuching megamall blast: Journo shares his family's story

CityONEMall_SimKuiHian.jpg

KUCHING (Dec 5): It was barely 10 seconds that Bernama Sibu correspondent Frank Julian Martin had taken a seat at a fast food stall when an explosion rocked the ground floor of CityONE Megamall here at about 3.30 pm yesterday.

A little stunned, his thoughts were immediately on his daughter Joanna Cassandra who was at a bookstore at the third floor of the mall.

“Call Joanna, call Joanna,” Frank told his wife Bejau Japang, who was buying some food at the stall, and immediately dashed up the halted escalator with the hope of finding his daughter.

Assessing the damage caused by the explosion, Frank was sure it did not reach the bookstore and his daughter was alright.

After receiving a call from his wife saying their daughter was safe and sound, Frank’s instinct as a reporter kicked in where he took video shots of the incident and sent them to Bernama headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.

He then ran back to the ground floor and found that his staff nurse wife and daughter, who is a member of the Malaysian Red Crescent Society at her school, attending to those who were injured.

They were joined by two other off-duty local nurses and members of the public, some of whom called the Fire and Rescue Department and the hospital for assistance.

Frank, who was on a holiday here, then alerted his colleagues at Bernama Kuching and sent a Whatsapp message to the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee to ask the authority to send help as the number of the injured started to increase.

The victims – who were groaning in pain – and members of the public felt relieved when the fire and rescue emergency response team and ambulances began to show up at about 3.45 pm.

“I was terrified and thinking of leaving for somewhere safe. But it is hard not to help those poor people. I had to do something to help the injured and my daughter also assisted them in any way that she knew,” said Bejau to Bernama.

She said it was nothing like any drill she had ever attended as people were in real pain.

“It was really heart wrenching. I almost cried. At the same time I was shaken by it,” she said.

Bejau was touched by members of the public – who were from various racial and religious background – for their willingness to help the victims.

“Despite many of them not having the expertise or knowledge in handling such a crisis, they came and helped. Some offered water while some gave words of comfort which I think helped the victims to stay strong,” she said.

Meanwhile, Frank said if not for the escalator next to where he and his wife were at, both of them could have suffered injuries from the blast.

“The blast was about 50 meters from where we were. Thank God, if not because of the escalator, we could have been among those who were injured. Thinking of that and what would happen to my daughter scares me a lot. Luckily, we are safe,” he said.

Pictures of the incident were shared via the social media and calls from relatives and friends started to pour in when they saw Bejau and Joanna in them.

“They were worried when they could not reach me via the phone. We are safe here,” said Frank who will only be returning to Sibu with his family on Friday.

According to a report by The Star, 41 people were hurt from the explosion, with 30 of them sent to the Sarawak General Hospital. Three of the victims are in the ICU, said the Sarawak Fire and Rescue Department.

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