Explosion rips through Empire Gallery, four hurt

By Debra Chong & Clara Chooi, The Malaysian Insider

SUBANG JAYA, Sept 28 — Four people were hurt in an early morning explosion at the Empire Gallery shopping mall here, which was heard from as far away as Bangsar.

Eyewitnesses described a scene of chaos, with police, ambulances and the fire brigade still on the scene.

Police tracker dogs were also present, as were Fire and Rescue Department personnel from stations across Subang Jaya, Shah Alam, Damansara and Puchong to investigate the incident.

Subang Jaya OCPD ACP Zainal Rashid Abu Bakar told reporters at the scene that the blast was believed to have started in the basement and involved a gas pipeline.

“We have yet to determine the cause of the blast but damage is extensive, affecting the parking lot and many outlets on the basement level and even the ground floor,” he said.

“Our forensics team is still investigating. We have not been able to enter certain parts of the mall . . . the damage is too bad and the areas are sealed off.”

He confirmed that a distress call was received at 3.45am concerning the explosion at the mall, which is at the entrance of Subang Jaya from the Federal Highway.

Zainal Rashid said four people were injured — two Nepalese security guards and a couple. They received minor scrapes and bruises.

Rescue workers are still combing the basement in search of more victims.

The security guards, who were initially trapped in the basement, have been sent to hospital.

The couple, sales executives Daryl Chua, 27, and his girlfriend Hibbie Tan, 23, were taken to hospital in an ambulance but have since been discharged.

Nearly the entire stretch of the front portion of the newly-built mall was blown out, damaging a number of cafes, restaurants and clothing stores including Tangs and Starbucks Coffee.

Chua told reporters that he was walking with his girlfriend to an parking payment station a few steps from Starbucks when the explosion occurred about 3.30am.

“We were at La Bodega earlier for dinner and then we were just hanging out outside my car and talking,” he said.

“Just as we were heading to the Autopay, there was a loud ‘boom’, like in the movies. I thought it was a bomb.”

Chua said he was “literally lifted off the ground” and thrown sideways several metres from the blast, lightly grazing both his arms.

The sound of breaking glass, falling debris and metal, and sirens broke the earlier silence, he said, leaving him in a momentary state of confusion and panic.

“And then the flames came up. It was all over, the entire front of the mall was razed. I thought I was going to die,” he said.

When the scene calmed slightly, Chua said he carried Tan, who had sprained her leg, to safety and noticed passers-by and nearby residents rushing to the scene.

His car, a black Volkswagen Golf GTI, was severely damaged.