KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) – Hundreds of screaming and coughing moviegoers fled a cinema complex in the Petronas Twin Towers on Friday night after a fire filled a shopping mall attached to the Malaysian landmark with thick, acrid smoke. No serious injuries were reported.

About 700-800 people rushed from the 13-screen Tanjong Golden Village facility on the third floor of the Suria KLCC mall abutting towers shortly before midnight, witnesses said.

“It was really terrible. People were running helter-skelter,” said Minati Panda, a Kuala Lumpur resident who was at the movies with her husband.

The fire started in a stairway landing outside a restaurant on the first level of the Suria KLCC, but its cause was not immediately known, said fire official Mahinder Singh. He said foul play had not been ruled out.

One woman was taken to an ambulance, where she was given oxygen.

The glass-and-steel Petronas Twin Towers, once the world’s tallest skyscraper before being upstaged by a building in Taiwan, are located in downtown Kuala Lumpur and are Malaysia’s most famous landmark, symbolizing the country’s economic progress.

The 1,483-foot buildings, which house offices in addition to the shopping mall, were largely empty because of the late hour and the only people affected appeared to be moviegoers and some diners in a few restaurants, according to Panda and other witnesses.

Panda and other patrons said no fire alarm sounded and the sprinklers did not work. There were also no cinema employees to guide people out, said Afisuddin Hafifi, a government lawyer who had been attending a movie.

Fire engines arrived about 20 minutes after the smoke was detected.

“I am very angry. The cinema management was slow to act,” Hafifi said. “There were lots of children in the theaters and there was huge panic.”

But Singh disputed the witnesses’ claims, saying fire alarms and sprinklers had been set off. He said the fire was put out in about an hour. No serious damage was reported to the complex.

Panda said the movie she was watching had just started when someone opened the theater door, letting in a rush of smoke.

Panicked people then ran into the hallway, where the visibility was near zero, Panda said. People were running out from other theaters as well, she said.

Idris Abdullah, a restaurant owner who was watching a movie with his two sons, said they smelled burning electrical wires as they were fleeing.

“But there was no fire alarm sound, nothing. People around us started to run and we just followed them. Nobody knew what was happening. It was really bad. It was so smoky we couldn’t see,” he said.

One of the towers is occupied by Petronas, Malaysia’s national oil company, and also has the office of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, now a Petronas adviser. The other tower has offices of various government and private organizations including multinational companies.


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