Family of Penang MCA's Lim Swee Bok killed in fire (Updated)

GEORGE TOWN: A pre-dawn fire wiped out the entire immediate family of an upcoming politician here today, days after he lost his father to cancer during the height of the floods.

Penang MCA Tanjong division youth head Lim Swee Bok was out working at a factory near the Bayan Lepas Free Industrial Zone, when he was informed of the tragedy.

Lim's mother Lau Sai Poh, 62, his China national wife Chen Yen, 35, and son Lim Yin Cun, 9, were found on the ground floor while his daughter, Lim Jia Yiin, 8, was on the top floor.

His father passed away from cancer on Nov 5.

The fire is believed to have been sparked on the ground floor at around 6am, and spread within minutes before engulfing the top floor of the double-storey unit in Pintasan Cecil 5, along the Cecil Street Ghaut road.

Firefighters had arrived in six fire engines at 6.45am, within minutes of the distress call. They managed to contain the fire to Lee's home, and upon entering, were shocked to find the bodies.

The victims are believed to have been overcome by excess smoke inhalation.

According to state Fire and Rescue Department director Saadon Mokhtar, the victims realised too late that their home was on fire, and could not make it out in time.

There was just one entryway into the double-storey house, which was built in a cluster with other similar buildings.

Saadon pledged that the department would launch a full scale investigation with the help of forensic specialists.

The neighbourhood is one of the oldest Chinese settlements in Penang, whose residents are mostly from the middle income bracket of blue collar workers, hawkers, and market traders.

Meanwhile, leaders from across the political divide cast aside their differences to offer their condolences.

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, the DAP secretary-general, consoled Swee Bok at the Penang Hospital mortuary.

He offered to pay for the funeral expenses on behalf of the state, and urged Swee Bok to stay strong.

Besides Lim, the Penang DAP chairperson Chow Kon Yeow led a delegation together with DAP veteran Phee Boon Poh to pay their last respects.

Penang MCA liaison committee chairperson Datuk Tan Teik Cheng turned emotional, shedding tears as he hugged Swee Bok.

Penang Opposition Leader Datuk Jahara Hamid also conveyed her condolences.

Later, MCA Youth head Senator Datuk Chong Sin Woon told theSun that the party will handle the funeral arrangements and will help Swee Bok rebuild his life.