ZAPE gas blast injures 13

Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Issue 1368, Page 3
Word count: 986
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung & Vítor Quintã

A gas explosion in a ZAPE restaurant yesterday morning left 13 people injured and caused extensive damage to surrounding buildings including the casino-hotel on the opposite side of the road.

The explosion occurred around 7am in a restaurant located on the ground floor of Tower 9 of Centro Internacional de Macau (International Centre), a Public Security Police (PSP) spokesperson told the Macau Daily Times.

After a preliminary investigation, the Fire Services believe the incident was caused by an accidental gas leak from the restaurant kitchen, with a number of gas cylinders having been found on the scene.

The PSP also believe it was an “accident” and ruled out the possibility of an explosive device. The spokesperson said they did not investigate the possibility of triad-related conflicts.

According to the Health Bureau (SSM), five men and eight women were injured but the paramedics treated five on the spot. Eight victims – four men and four women aged between 41 and 65 – were taken to Conde S. Januário Hospital and seven of them suffered cuts to the head, hand and legs caused by shattered glass.

The seven victims, including three women from Macau, a man and a woman from South Korea, a Hong Kong male and one man from mainland China, were discharged from hospital yesterday following treatment.

However, a 48-year-old Hong Kong man needed to be hospitalised with a broken leg and rib. The PSP spokesman said he was trapped in the rubble when the fire brigade arrived but did not receive life-threatening injuries.

According to the PSP, the victims included residents on the second and fourth floor of Tower 9, two hotel guests and two employees at the Golden Dragon casino-hotel, passers-by and also passengers on a bus that was passing the scene when the explosion occurred.

The restaurant was closed and no one was inside when the incident occurred, the police added.

Extensive damage

The blast caused extensive damage to the ground floor of the tower and broke windows up to the sixth floor. It also caused a small fire that was quickly extinguished by Fire Services but caused flooding on the ground floor.

On the other side of Rua de Malaca directly opposite the restaurant, the blast was so strong it also smashed a large area of glass and marble tiles on the façade and ground floor of the Golden Dragon casino-hotel.

Owner of the neighbouring supermarket, Mr Ng said his shop was not damaged seriously but could only assess the loss after police released the area, according to TDM news.

Mr Ng also deemed that the gas leak was an “individual incident”.

Ms Fang, a visitor from Hunan province, was sleeping at her younger sister’s apartment on the 14th floor in another Centro Internacional de Macau building behind Tower 9 when she felt her bed was “shaking”.

She told the MDTimes that her sister thought it was an earthquake and she saw a lot of black smoke on the street in front of Golden Dragon, adding that the fire brigade and police arrived at the scene very quickly.

She also said that the electricity supply was only interrupted for “a couple of minutes” and many of her neighbours went out to the corridor to check what was going on.

However, she said she was not scared by the incident and still believed Macau is a “safe place”.

After the blast, Rua de Malaca and Rua de Luís Gonzaga Gomes were closed immediately but parts of the roads were re-opened for limited traffic at noon.

The piece of the flyover leading to Fisherman’s Wharf and Avenida da Amizade was still closed at 5pm yesterday.

Telecom, power services affected

Meanwhile, telecom operator CTM said the blast had “severely damaged” a major switch room near the scene and about 3,000 customers had their fixed landline, Internet, mobile and leased circuit services disrupted.

The company said after a preliminary assessment it was “very unlikely” that the switch room could be repaired and had arranged other telecom facilities to restore the services temporarily in a bid to “minimise impact”.

In addition, a total of 102 flats in Tower 1 of Centro Internacional de Macau were without electricity the entire day yesterday. Another 27 buildings involving some 700 households and shops surrounding the scene also experienced a short blackout for about three minutes.

Macau’s power utility CEM said the damaged electricity distribution room of the building was already repaired in the afternoon but the low-pressure facilities including the wires and switchboards suffered different levels of damage and power supply was unable to be restored in Tower 1 yesterday.

The explosion also caused suspension to the fixed landline and Internet services at the Outer Harbour ferry terminal. Tickets were sold manually and ferry companies had to cease pre-sale services at the counters and online booking services.

A Maritime Administration statement said overall services at the terminal and ferry operators remained “normal”.

The ferry companies estimated that less than 10 percent of passengers were affected and said they coordinated ticketing arrangements with their Hong Kong offices by using wireless phones.

Moreover, the building inspection committee of the Land, Public Works and Transport Bureau said after the initial inspection that “potential dangers” could be spotted in the external wall and ceiling of the restaurant, but confirmed that the building structure is safe.

The Fire Services mobilised 16 emergency vehicles and some 40 fire fighters for rescue. The PSP also sent out about 40 officers to the scene.

Lawmaker Kwan Tsui Hang had just recently questioned the government about the delay in the revision of the ‘Fire Safety Regulations’ in her latest interpellation.

She said the administration had previously promised to enter the draft law into the legislative process in the third quarter of last year.

The lawmaker stressed that the regulations are about “the safety of local people’s lives and property”, and wondered why the draft law still remains incomplete after “eight years”.

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