At around 11:40am on Wednesday (3 Aug), the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) were alerted about a fire that had broken out in a 2-room apartment on the 11th floor of Block 92B Telok Blangah Street 31.
Firefighters from the Alexandra Fire Station had to force their way into the flat to extinguish the raging flames with two water jets, said SCDF.
Rush To Save Her Husband
For Madam Doreen Ong, aged 73, she was returning from the Telok Blangah Market when she noticed the fire engines under the block.
There was a crowd gathered across the block, pointing at the flat that was set ablaze. Madam Ong recalled that even the neighbours from the coffee shop were present.
Since Madam Ong’s husband was blind, he was still at home.
The floor was wet from the rain as Madam Ong swiftly ran home to bring her husband downstairs where it was safe.
Upon reaching their studio apartment on the 19th floor, she found her 73-year-old husband in the house, who was oblivious to the danger as he had assumed that the stench was due to the burning of joss paper during the Hungry Ghost Festival.
The couple grabbed their identity cards, marriage certificate plus some spare cash, before making their way down the block safely.
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The Site of The Fire
According to Lianhe Zaobao, the burnt 2-room apartment belongs to a karung guni man (scrap dealer) in his 70s, by the surname of Chen.
Mr Chen’s neighbours are well-aware of his occupation, noting that he would usually go out at around 5pm every evening and bring a lot of miscellaneous items back home.
The collected sundries were cluttered everywhere, from the living room to the kitchen, and sometimes it would even spill out of the house and pile up at the corridor.
His neighbours have complained to the Town Council numerous times, and they would come over to clean it up, but there was hardly any improvement to the situation.
Mr Chen is the living definition of “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”.
When Mr Chen was interviewed by the Chinese newspaper, he said that the items he brought back home after a day’s work from his second-hand business are all treasures, and they date back to a year and a half ago. He doesn’t have anywhere else to store it besides his own home.
Luckily, Mr Chen wasn’t at home when the fire broke out.
Mr Chen’s house is extremely flammable, as he collected items like old television sets, cabinets, stacks of newspaper and assorted furniture.
Four hours after the fire, workers from the West Coast Town Council were seen disposing of the items from the affected flat.
The Affected Occupants
The affected building has 30 floors and contains a mix of studio apartments which are mostly occupied by seniors, as well as larger flats.
When the fire broke out, nearly 50 residents had to evacuate the building.
No one was injured, though one resident who inhaled some smoke declined the medical assistance.
The cause of fire is still under investigation.
According to Ms Wei Jing Hui, a 31-year-old HR employee who was working from home, she first heard her neighbour yelling about the fire along the corridor.
Ms Wei thought it was a prank at the start, until she saw the thick smoke that was rising up to the sky outside her window. Then she quickly woke up her husband and they fled the building together.
When the couple were running downstairs, they heard the sound of glass exploding four to five times.
Madam Wei, a 62-year-old housewife who lives right next to the affected flat told reporters that she heard the sound of two explosions when the fire broke out. It scared her so badly she evacuated immediately.
When describing the state of her neighbour’s house, Madam Wei went as far as calling it a “garbage dump”.
After the fire was put out, members of the West Coast Town Council arrived on site to give out water to the evacuated residents.
By the time 3pm rolled around, it is understood that most residents, except those living on the affected floor, had returned to their own home.
The tenant who lives above the affected flat, Li Huabao (73-year-old retiree), was heartbroken when she returned home to find that her windows were shattered into smithereens from heat.
She bought the flat four years ago, and spent a total of $130,000 for the flat and the renovations.
Fortunately, the MP in charge of her area has given her contact information to the relevant authorities and she should be able to get some help soon.
One of the neighbours commented that he was glad that most occupants weren’t at home, since it was a weekday afternoon. If the fire broke out at night and people were sleeping, someone could have died.
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Featured Image: Lianhe Zaobao (联合早报)
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