GEORGE TOWN: A faulty air handling unit (AHU) on the third floor of Komtar has been identified as the culprit behind the thick smoke which triggered the fire alarm that caused a massive evacuation of some 2,000 workers from the skyscraper, here on Friday.
A spokesperson with the state Fire and Rescue Department station in Jalan Pantai revealed that the cause of the incident was a defective AHU, from which thick smoke billowed out from, during the 3pm incident.
The alarm sent the workers, mainly state and federal civil servants, to evacuate the building and where only the initial group was fortunate enough to use the high speed elevators.
After 45 minutes, the elevators were shutdown as part of the standard operating procedure during a fire outbreak.
Among those who had to scale down the hundreds of flights of stairs were Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow and eight of his state excos.
They were in the midst of their weekly state exco meeting on the 28th floor when the alarm went off, causing an initial bemused reaction by the top state officials and their staff.
Chow posted on his official social media account that when they realised it was not a fire drill, they were forced to walk down hundreds flight of stairs. Despite that, he was grateful that the evacuation process went smoothly.
The staff was allowed to re-enter Komtar at around 6pm when the all clear was issued by the firefighters, who had combed the entire third floor to locate the cause of the thick smoke.
The first to third floors of the 68 storey Komtar tower are areas reserved for commercial enterprises and traders.
Komtar is an acronym name for Komplexs Tun Abdul Razak, and it is the tallest building in Penang and the sixth highest in the country. It was completed in 1986 and serves as a complex with many retail, office and trading lots available with one interconnected boutique city hotel.
There have been at least three fire incidents in Komtar, with an inferno detected in 1983 when the 43rd floor caught fire.