Thursday, January 11, 2018

Gas explosion triggers panic

Gas pipeline blast sends nearby residents scrambling for safety, several affected by gas leakage
Lawas District Officer Hussaini Hakim (fourth left) is briefed by representatives of Petronas, Fire and Rescue Department and local residents at the site of the gas leak. The blackened earth on the right indicates where the explosion occurred.

MIRI: A gas leak followed by an explosion at KP181 of the Sabah-Sarawak Gas Pipeline (SSGP) sent locals in Long Luping, Lawas scurrying to safety early yesterday.

The leak in the pipeline also triggered an immediate evacuation of some 80 pupils from nearby SK Long Luping.

Sixty-one-year-old Martin Singa and his wife, who live just 500 metres from the site, were left with breathing difficulties as well as eye and throat irritation caused by the leaked gas from the pipeline.

Martin, who was taking his wife to a clinic in Long Semadoh for treatment when contacted by The Borneo Post, said he was the first to know about the leakage.

“I smelled the gas around 1.30am before hearing a loud explosion. The sound was so loud – like a plane had crashed.

“I immediately knew something was not right and my wife and I drove our car to the main road to safety,” he said, adding his wife’s condition was more serious than his as she had breathing difficulties and blurred vision.

“We were in a state of panic, but managed to drive to the school (SK Long Luping) about three kilometres away to inform them about the gas leak, prompting the school to evacuate its pupils.”

Martin said as there was no telephone reception in the area, he used amateur radio to make an emergency communication around 1.45am.

“I called them via the (amateur) radio and thankfully, someone from Ba Kelalan responded to the call. 
He forwarded my message to the police station in Lawas to get the valves shut down,” he said.

Another local, Peter Dison, 36, who works at a logging camp in Merarap (about 10 kilometres from the site) said he also heard the explosion.

“The sound was so loud that we could hear it from as far as Merarap. It was about 2am and I was going to start the generator set. Some of the mechanics working at the camp rushed to the school (SK Long Luping) to check on their children.

“We all panicked,” he said.
Petronas representatives (right and extreme left) talk to Martin Singa during their visit to the site yesterday following the incident. With them is Gituen Labung, who is a representative of Ba Kelalan assemblyman.

The leakage at KP181 – the second to hit the pipeline caused the gas supply from Kimanis in Sabah to be immediately shut off.

On June 10, 2014, an explosion at KP135 of the SSGP ripped apart a portion of the RM3-billion interstate gas pipeline project along a stretch between Lawas town and Long Sukang in the northern-most district of Sarawak.

In a brief statement issued by the media relations unit of its Sabah and Labuan Regional Office yesterday, Petronas confirmed the gas leak incident at Long Luping.

It said that its emergency response team was mobilised and brought the situation under control, and that all relevant authorities had been informed.

“There is no impact to the surrounding communities and the environment. Investigation (is) still being carried out,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, Ba Kelalan assemblyman Baru Bian said he was informed of the leakage by his Lawas office staffers.

“I understand that Petronas security personnel had been sent to the area around Long Meringau, near to Long Luping,” he said when contacted.

“As this is the second time a leakage has occurred, I am very concerned and so are the people in the area.

“A thorough investigation must be done. I hope to get a briefing from Petronas on the incident soon,” he said.

The 512-km SSGP pipes gas from Kimanis for processing into liquefied natural gas (LNG) at the Petronas LNG Complex in Bintulu for export.
Aftermath of the explosion at point of the leakage at KP181 of the Sabah-Sarawak Gas Pipeline at Long Luping .

~ Borneo Post Online

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