Singapore — The sole director of a Tuas company, Chua Xing Da, where an industrial building blast killed three migrant workers last February testified before an inquiry committee that he had been deeply affected by the workers’ deaths, especially that of a longtime worker whom he respected, Mr. Subbaiyan Marimuthu, 38.
The blast occurred on Feb 24, injuring eight workers. The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) responded to a fire at No. 32E Tuas Avenue 11 at around 11:25 am on that day.
Around 65 individuals from neighboring units were evacuated before the SCDF arrived. Eight workers with burn injuries were conveyed to the Singapore General Hospital while another two were taken to the Ng Teng Fong General Hospital by the employer.
Officers discovered the fire involved an industrial mixer in the affected unit.
According to Mr Chua Xing Da, 37, the director of Stars Engrg, he and Mr Marimuthu had been “more than just employee and employer.
He worked for me for so many years… I’m very affected,” The Straits Times quotes him as saying on the third and final day of his testimony, Monday (Sept 27).
The deceased worker had been a supervisor at the company, where he had worked for six years.
The other two workers who died are Mr. Anisuzzaman Md, 29, and Mr. Shohel Md, 23.
Mr. Chua Xing Da testified that his company has extended financial aid to the families of the three men, sending their full salaries monthly. As for the other injured workers, the company is also paying for treatments and surgeries.
He added that he has “never shortchanged” any of the injured workers.
The company bought the mixer linked to the explosion on Alibaba in June 2020. It had already shown defects including fires and leaks, and had caught fire just a few hours before the blast, which the workers were able to extinguish.
“If I had known this thing would explode, I would not have bought this. Why would I need to buy a time bomb?” Mr Chua told the committee.
ST noted that Mr Chua was not able to answer some of the questions asked about the machine and safety measures. However, he told the committee, headed by Senior District Judge Ong Hian Sun, he believed it was safe to use.
In his testimony on Sept 23, he told Mr Marimuthu that the machine was safe, despite the worker’s misgivings and fears.
The second set of hearings concerning the explosion will be held from Nov 15 to 19. Stars Engrg’s project engineer, Mr Lwin Moe Tun, is expected to testify. He was not able to during the first round of hearings since he was unwell.
Mr Lwin is said to have deleted pictures and messages from his and Mr Marimuthu’s phones after the blast, which has since been recovered by the police.
The tragedy at Tuas serves as a sobering reminder of the importance of safety measures and vigilance in industrial settings. As the inquiry continues, there will be a close examination of the events leading up to the blast, holding all parties accountable for the preventable loss of lives./TISG