SINGAPORE – Shouting and loud footsteps woke housewife Indra Thevi up at 2.30am on Friday (Oct 8).
The smell of burning was thick in the air and she realised that a fire had broken out in her Housing Board block in Jurong West.
The 52-year-old and her family of two other adults, still clad in pyjamas, promptly left their second-floor home in Block 978 for the safety of a grass patch beside the block.
She saw clothes being thrown out from a unit on the fifth floor, where thick black smoke was billowing.
Two men, believed to be roommates aged 31 and 51 living in the flat, climbed out of the window to the air-conditioner ledge. They were escaping from a fire suspected to be caused by a personal mobility device (PMD).
In a Facebook post, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said they were alerted to the fire at about 2.30am.
Madam Indra told The Straits Times that she was anxious for the safety of the two men on the ledge.
She said: “They were shouting, ‘Tolong, Tolong’, and appeared to be trying to get the attention of the people below. I was quite worried they were going to fall.”
SCDF said firefighters with breathing apparatus entered the unit and forced their way into a bedroom, rescuing the two men.
They did not want to be taken to the hospital, the SCDF added.
A man found inside the bedroom where the fire occurred was pronounced dead at the scene by an SCDF paramedic.
Another occupant had evacuated from the unit before the SCDF arrived, and he was taken to Singapore General Hospital for burn injuries.
The police said the man who died was 22 years old and the man who was taken to hospital was 24.
About 60 people from neighbouring units were evacuated by the police.
One of them, student Pranita Bose, 12, said her elder sister was woken up by the strong smell of burning plastic and heard firefighters shouting. The older girl immediately alerted their parents. Pranita was alarmed to see the police and black smoke.
The police told her parents to evacuate from their fourth-floor unit with their three children and to take their masks along.
Pranita saw one man who suffered burns on his back and another who appeared to be in shock after being rescued from the window ledge.
She said: “I was quite scared that my family’s belongings would be affected, as I didn’t know how bad the fire was.”
Another resident on the seventh floor, who wanted to be known only as Madam Yew, 71, was worried she could not escape fast enough, as she has difficulty moving around.
She was awoken by a loud banging noise. Six other family members were still asleep.
“I smelled the smoke and went out to the lift to see what was going on, and then I saw it was a fire on the fifth floor. I was so scared, I was shaking all over,” she said in Mandarin.
She woke her children and grandchildren up and they quickly evacuated, while she and her husband lagged behind.
“I was panicking,” she said.
Neighbours whom ST spoke to said they were not familiar with the five occupants of the flat, who were likely to be Chinese Malaysian tenants renting the five-room unit.
Consultant Noura Ramdzan, 52, who lives on the second storey, said she last saw two of the occupants two days ago, carrying a PMD up the stairs.
A housewife who wanted to be known only as Madam Ng, 69, lives directly above the affected unit. She said the floor of her living room and one of the bedrooms remained hot almost 12 hours after the fire.
She was shocked when she learnt someone had died in the unit.
She said: “It’s so scary that a life can be lost just like that.”
Madam Yew, who lives directly above her, said the heat from the fire burnt the potted plants at her living room window, and her floor was dirty with soot.
SCDF said preliminary investigations indicated that the blaze was of electrical origin from a PMD.
This is not the first PMD-related death this year.
In June, a 20-year-old man died after his PMD burst into flames in a lift in a Yishun HDB block.
PMDs here must meet the UL2272 standard – a set of safety requirements covering the electrical drive train system of PMDs, including the battery.
In Friday’s Facebook post, the SCDF said: “Non-UL2272 PMDs and any form of modifications to PMDs pose a fire risk and threaten public safety. Owners of these devices are strongly encouraged to dispose of their devices at appropriate recyclers.”
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