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Migrant Worker Burnt To Death In Illegally Modified Shophouse Fire In Kuantan

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Cover image via Bomba & Penyelamat Negeri Pahang/Facebook

An Indian migrant worker was burnt to death after a fire destroyed the third floor of a shophouse at Jalan Bukit Ubi in Kuantan today, 23 January

According to New Straits Times, the burnt remains of 28-year-old M Manikandan, a helper at a nearby restaurant, were found after firemen extinguished the blaze at the upper floor of the shophouse.

In the report, State Fire and Rescue Department director Nor Hisham Mohammed said the incident only involved the top floors of the four-unit shophouses, which had been reconstructed into rooms for rental. 

"The fire razed the third floor of the three-storey shophouses which had been modified into 27 units of rooms for rental purposes. The body was later found on the third floor," he said, as quoted by New Straits Times.

The fire was believed to have occurred at 12.53am

Bernama reported that the blaze was then put under control at 2.05am by eight fire officers and 38 firemen from the Kuantan, Indera Mahkota, Taman Tas, and Gebeng fire stations.

28 individuals, including the victim, were staying on the second and third floor of the shophouse, but 27 of them managed to escape after firemen knocked on their room doors instructing the occupants to leave the burning building.

The cause of the fire and the estimated losses are still under investigation.

While there were rooms available for rent, it was later reported that the premises were believed to have been illegally modified and partitioned

In an updated report by New Straits Times, State Housing and Local Government Committee chairman Abdul Rahim Muda said that the upper floor that caught fire had more than 20 rooms, which was allegedly rented by both locals and foreigners.

"Such units should not have a huge number of occupants and the rooms renovated for rental purposes pose a danger during an emergency," Rahim told New Straits Times.

"The building modification might not have met standards set by the local authorities and Fire and Rescue Department."

Image for illustration purposes only.

Image via Migration News

He added that inspections of the premises revealed that there were plywood partitions

"The Kuantan Municipal Council has been instructed to ensure shop owners do not carry out illegal renovation on the upper floors of their premises for rental purposes," the chairman said, as quoted by New Straits Times.

"The rental rate might be low and many might choose it as an alternative due to its location in the middle of town but people have to realise that such living conditions are not safe."

Migrant workers do not always have the best living conditions. In 2016, an exposé by The Guardian revealed how such workers are exploited and abused in Malaysia:

Speaking of mistreatment, it was reported last year that three Indian nationals had been chained, abused, and starved for months in Pahang:

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