Edit Blog Post
Published: August 19th 2007
8.30am, brushing my teeth a day of internet cafe work ahead trying to restore whatever else I can from the travelblog database crash. The air-conditioning starts roaring loudly.
People are shouting, there are some cracking noises, the sound seems quite close - getting closer. I spit toothpaste out on the floor. The hostel is on fire. I look out of my room, an orange glow is coming from the end of the corridor, people are panicking, some grabbing belongings, others running down the hallway clad only in bedsheets.
I grab my laptop, my passport and money, and my backpack and get out of there - virtually everything I own is in this little room, and it's going up in flames.
"FIRE!" people are yelling, I head down the stairs out on to the street, crowds are gathering, people from all over China-town are heading in to gawp and gasp. Black stinking smokes is billowing from the top of the building.
I dump my bags with a disorientated and shocked Irish girl and head back in. A blond girl who left everything in her room comes with me. We're lucky our rooms are furthest from the inferno enveloping
the end of the hallway. Call us stupid but insurance companies are assholes and will probably claim "Act of God" or tell us that our list of belongings wasn't submitted before the start of the trip, it's worth a risk, a calculated risk.
I grab my dive equipment and chuck a few more things into my dive bag, and then I look out again, this is really serious, down the corridor the ceiling is melting, flames are licking along the cheap fibreboard and the sound is intense, I head out again.
People could still be in there. I head back in, start down the corridors yelling "Get out" - smashing on doors making as much noise as possible. A Canadian in shorts and flip-flops is doing the same. Two Japanese girls (maybe Korean) poke there heads out one of the doors, bleary eyed not knowing what is going on - "Get out!" - and point down the corridor to the stairs, they stumble away in the right direction, a few more stragglers emerge, we head back away from the flames and smoke and back towards the safety of the street.
The sirens are starting now. The crowds
have grown. The Red Dragon Hostel is collapsing! windows are cracking. At reception people are checking out! - what the hell! - I go behind the desk, get the woman to open the safe grab everything (people's passports and wallets) and we head out to the streets.
A few minutes later, the fire engines arrive, foam and water start pouring into the blown out windows. People are standing around dazed, some have everything in those rooms, passports, money, everything they own in some cases.
I take photos now.
After an hour we realise that no one was hurt. After several hours after a trip to another hostel a few streets away to find a room. We are let into the hostel.
I go back to my room, it's relatively ok - I pick the few smoke and water drenched objects I left. I don't think I've lost anything. It turned out to be the same for nearly everyone, broken cameras, filthy clothes, drenched books and passports, a few lost nearly everything, no reports of missing passports yet. The damage had mainly been towards the back of the hostel and the floor above was destroyed but uninhabited.
It could have been very very different. Not a single alarm sounded.
There were NO fire alarms in the building - if there were they didn't work. Why hadn't they been inspected? How did the owners obtain a licence to run a hotel with out basic safety precautions.
It turns out the lady who runs the hostel just rents the building, the owners of the building try to get away without doing any maintenance. I feel sorry for her - but it could have been very different.
The lights went out after a few moments, people were getting up. If this had happened in the middle of the night I don't think everyone would have got out. The emergency exits were locked.
A Dutch couple had run down the emergency exit stairs and been trapped one floor down - their only option was to run back up past all the flames and out the main exit.
Come on Malaysian authorities - DO YOUR JOB - I know this is the same in many other parts of the world - but "50 years Malaysia truly Asia" -
this incident is not going to do that tourism campaign much good. Back handers? Inefficiency? Under-staffed? Over-worked? and I have every sympathy for the individuals at the ground level.
I don't think the hostel I will stay in tonight will be much better - though they say the fire alarms work - but probably if I look the emergency exits will be locked and fire hazards will be all over the place.
Funny in a situation like this how we react. I've talked about this with others, nurses who thought they'd be good in a situation of this nature panicked and stumbled towards the glow, some people at first went back to sleep only to be roused by disbelieving boyfriends/girlfriends. I kept relatively level headed. I am ashamed to admit my first concern was for my stuff - only as I realised how serious this could be (and after anything valuable I owned was safe) did I really start to think about others.
So I write this a few hours after everything has calmed down, a run of bad luck that I seem to be having continues, and I'll work trying to restore as many blog entries
Doing the full monty... I think being checked to see if they had anything they shouldn't.
as possible today and I'll write something positive and interesting about diving again soon...
Over and out...
Tot: 0.512s; Tpl: 0.019s; cc: 15; qc: 60; dbt: 0.0474s; 1; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.5mb