The family of Tanjung MCA Youth chief Lim Swee Bok were killed in a pre-dawn fire at their house in Pintasan Cecil 5 in Weld Quay, Penang.
Those who perished were Lim’s mother Lau Sai Poh, 62, his Chinese national wife Chen Yen, 35, son Yin Chun, 9, and daughter Jia Yiin, 8.
Swee Bok with wife and children in happier times at Cameron Highlands.
Swee Bok, who was away at work when the fire broke out, arrived at the scene while the blaze was being put out and was overcome with emotion. His neighbours gathered around him, sharing in his grief. His father had passed away just last week.
According to Northeast District police chief Assistant Commissioner Anuar Omar, the house caught fire at around 6am. The Fire and Rescue Department received a call at 6.08am.
“It is believed that the four victims were trapped inside the house when the fire broke out,” Anuar said.
A total of six fire engines, including two voluntary, arrived at the scene at about 6.17am.
The fire was brought under control in 30 minutes and did not spread to the house next door.
Anuar said three of the victims were found on the ground floor while the fourth was found on the first floor.
The bodies of the victims, who were believed to have died from excess smoke inhalation, were sent to the Penang Hospital for a post-mortem examination.
Penang Fire and Rescue Department officials said 60% of the double-storey cluster house had been destroyed and that the fire started on the ground floor before spreading to the upper floor.
Police and firemen are trying to ascertain the cause of the fire.
Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and State Exco Phee Boon Poh consoling Swee Bok.
The Star reported that neighbour Lye Chooi Ngoh, 51 said they were sleeping when they heard shouts which woke them up. They ran downstairs and saw the house next door engulfed in flames.
“We didn’t know what happened until someone called us.
“I started hosing down the fire with two others who lived nearby while calling the Bomba but the fire was too big,” Lye was reported as saying.
The report also cited another neighbour, Sally Lim, 35, saying that they saw the family of four completing their calendar business at 3am when they passed the house.
“The neighbours told them to go to bed as it was late but 2 hours later, a fire started,” she was quoted as saying.
A blogger who goes by the name Lim Sian See said Swee Bok was a selfless man and had been helping with flood relief for the past two weeks, FMT reported.
He revealed that Swee Bok was a factory worker and was on the midnight shift when the fire occurred.
The blogger said in a Facebook posting:
“My heart really goes out to Mr Lim Swee Bok, the Penang MCA division youth head for Tanjung.
He has lost all his immediate family members and his home within one week.
Last week, his father passed away due this illness.
Despite this, after his father’s funeral he was still helping out in flood relief and distributing flood aid to victims.
However, early this morning at about 5am while he was working in a night shift in a factory, a fierce fire broke out in his terrace house and robbed the lives of his mother, wife and two kids.
By the time he rushed back home when told about the fire, it was already too late.
An ordinary hero faced with over-whelming tragedy and challenges where his life has been turned upside down.
I don’t know what else to say as what happened to him is probably the worst nightmare a person can face. In fact, it is unimaginable to me. His grief right now is more than anyone can or should ever bear.
Stay strong, sir.”
MCA today expressed its heartfelt condolences to Swee Bok.
Penang MCA chief Datuk Tan Teik Cheng announced an initial financial aid of RM10,000 for Lim. He also said a committee will be set up to determine how the party could help Lim rebuild his life.
“This is a very difficult time for Lim.
“We are sad on the passing of four of his family members.
“We will see how else we can help Lim rebuild his life,” he told the New Straits Times.
Penang MCA Chairman Tan Teik Cheng (in striped shirt) consoling Swee Bok.
Reportedly, Swee Bok had called Tan at 7.05am to inform him of the sad news.