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Tuas deadly explosion: Injured worker asks to stay for treatment, another seeks increase in S$300 monthly allowance

SINGAPORE — After a deadly explosion at a Tuas industrial worksite, injured worker Hossain Jitu, 32, could not close his eyes and had to undergo skin grafting so that he could shut them to sleep. Worse, he still cannot eat properly because he cannot open his mouth fully.

Tuas deadly explosion: Injured worker asks to stay for treatment, another seeks increase in S$300 monthly allowance

Injured workers Hussain Jitu (left) and Molla Md Yousuf outside the State Courts where they testified before an inquiry committee on Sept 28, 2021.

  • With the skin beneath his eyes burnt, injured worker Hossain Jitu could not close his eyes and sleep after an explosion at his worksite
  • He also cannot open his mouth fully, and doctors said he might have to go for more surgical procedures
  • He pleaded to be allowed to stay in Singapore for further treatment
  • Another worker Molla Md Yousuf asked for more allowance than the S$300 monthly “MC money”, saying he needs to send money home

 

SINGAPORE — After a deadly explosion at a Tuas industrial worksite, injured worker Hossain Jitu, 32, could not close his eyes and had to undergo skin grafting so that he could shut them to sleep. Worse, he still cannot eat properly because he cannot open his mouth fully.

Fellow survivor Molla Md Yousuf, 28, cannot sleep well because it hurts too much to sleep on his back, which was part of the 35 per cent burns over his body that he suffered. And while the pain on the burnt areas, including his face, has been bearable, the itching continues to be “terrible”, he added.

These details of the blast’s human toll, in addition to the deaths of three workers, emerged as the two Bangladeshis testified on Tuesday (Sept 28), the seventh day of public hearings by an inquiry committee looking into the circumstances leading to the blast. The pair were among seven workers injured in the explosion and fire on Feb 24. 

The three workers killed in the explosion and fire at the industrial building located at 32E Tuas Avenue 11 suffered 90 per cent burns. They were: Subbaiyan Marimuthu, 38, from India, as well as Anisuzzaman Md, 29, and Shohel Md, 23, who were both from Bangladesh.

Apart from talking about how their injuries still affect their abilities to live life normally, Mr Jitu made an appeal to the committee for him to stay in Singapore to complete his treatment, while Mr Yousuf asked for a monthly allowance higher than the S$300 that he and the other workers are receiving.

They made their requests just before they were released as witnesses.

Mr Jitu, who suffered 54 per cent burns, said: “I am very sick and I will request (that) my treatment can be continued until I am cured because, at this stage, if I am sent back to Bangladesh without recovering, it would be very difficult for me to continue with my treatment.”

Mr Yousuf said: “During this period when I am undergoing treatment, I am given (medical leave) money of S$300 a month. We are not given any makan money (for food). We are the sole breadwinner, and need to send money home also. Will our boss pay more or not?”

Hearing these requests, Senior District Judge Ong Hian Sun, who chairs the committee, told Mr Jitu that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will take note of his request, and referred Mr Yousuf to the ministry to check on his request.

Mr Jitu and Mr Yousuf are both workers of Stars Engrg, which supplies fire protection systems. They were among four workers who were newly deployed to work at the firm’s Tuas workshop producing fire-rated insulation wrap on Feb 18, mere days before the blast occurred.

Their appeals came a day after the company’s sole director, 37-year-old Chua Xing Da, testified that he has been giving money to the three deceased workers’ families in the form of their standard monthly salary, and does not intend to stop doing this.

TIME SHEETS

Lawyers representing the state questioned the two workers on the validity of the time stamps indicated on their time sheets, which was supposedly a record of their working hours.

Both workers stated that their work hours between Feb 18 and 23 would extend beyond 8pm because they had to attain their production target of 32 rolls of fire wraps before calling it a day. Yet, the logged end times of their work day were around 7pm on each day.

Mr Jitu turned slightly agitated when asked why the recorded timings were as such. “This is alibaba (not true). I don’t agree,” he said, pointing out that he had never had the chance to check his time sheet. “I have always worked beyond 8pm. I never finish work before 8pm.”

He later revealed that he had already noticed that he was not paid the right salary based on his own calculations of what was supposed to be his overtime pay before he started working at the workshop. He had been working with Stars Engrg since November 2017.

“Sometimes they used to reduce our overtime hours. When we could not meet the (work) target, then our overtime used to be reduced,” he added.

MAY NEED ANOTHER SURGERY TO OPEN MOUTH

Mr Jitu was also asked about the progress of his recovery.

He said that although he can now open his mouth up to 1.5 inches (about 4cm), up from one inch previously, he may have to undergo another surgery if physiotherapy does not help.

“The doctor has given me something that looks like a rubber ball to insert in my mouth. After about 10 minutes, the opening of my mouth would widen slightly, but it would reverse to the old condition within 30 minutes, meaning I cannot open it,” he told the committee.

Mr Jitu also said that he used to get nightmares about the explosion every time he closed his eyes, but he now tries not to think about the accident too much or he would not be able to sleep.

His account of the blast was read to the committee on Tuesday.

That day, he was just standing at his assigned post, at one of the workshop’s two assembly tables, when he suddenly felt hot oil splash on his face and the top part of his chest.

He also heard oil splashing onto the wall above and behind him, with the oil rebounding against the wall and landing on his back. “I looked up and the whole workshop was on fire and filled with black smoke,” he added.

His shirt was on fire and he realised that part of it had already burned off only after running out of the unit’s front shutters by climbing over the assembly table.

Mr Yousuf, who was packing completed fire wraps near the front shutter of the workshop when the blast happened, said that he heard a loud explosion and felt intense heat before feeling a force so strong that caused him to be thrown a distance of 2m.

He tore his shirt off when he realised that it had caught fire.

Doctors told him that it would take more than two years for his scars to heal. The scars are extensive, covering his feet, hands, arms, face and back.

After the explosion, the bulk of the damage could be seen on a mixer machine, which was used to make fire clay, a key component of the fire wrap that is a mixture of water, potato starch and other materials. The lower portion of the back of the machine’s oil jacket ruptured.

Both workers testified that they could hear bubbling sounds coming from the machine, which was installed on an elevated platform, even when they were working on the ground floor.

Mr Jitu said that he was spooked by the sound, which he felt had grown louder two to three days before the explosion.

The hearing continues on Wednesday.

Related topics

fire death Tuas migrant worker Committee of Inquiry workplace safety

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