Sunday 20 October 2013

Cleaners to the rescue in HDB flat fire

By Jalelah Abu Baker, The Straits Times, 19 Oct 2013

WHEN a fire broke out in a second-floor Housing Board flat in Ang Mo Kio yesterday morning, its four residents were left with only one way out - through the kitchen window.

Thick flames had engulfed most of the one-room rental flat in Block 115, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4 by then, and two residents leapt to the ground.

The other two, Mr Gan Hwee Sun, 72, and Ms Teo Siew Choo, 50, stood precariously on the window ledge until they were helped to the ground by Bangladeshi cleaners, using a ladder.

Mr Gan and Ms Teo, both musicians in a Chinese funeral procession band, shared the flat with Ms Teo's friend, Mr Choon Siew Weng, 56, and her younger brother, 37.

Mr Gan emerged unharmed, while the other three were taken to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. The younger brother, who was not named, was warded in the high dependency unit for fall injuries, a hospital spokesman said. The other two suffered burns.

A 70-year-old resident upstairs who suffered from smoke inhalation was also warded.

Alerted to the incident just after 8am, firefighters forced their way into the unit and put out the blaze within 15 minutes.

When The Straits Times visited Ms Teo in hospital, she was visibly shaken after hearing that one of her two pet dogs had died in the fire. The other dog escaped unscathed when firefighters entered the flat.

Mr Gan said he was having a shower when Ms Teo banged on the door screaming "Fire". He only had time to put on his boxer shorts before going through the kitchen window, but was too scared to take another step.

"I didn't know what was happening. I was holding on to the bamboo pole holder until the cleaners came."

Awards for 6 who saved lives in fire
By Jalelah Abu Baker, The Straits Times, 19 Oct 2013

CLEANER Rahman Md Arifur was at the void deck of Block 115 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4 yesterday morning when he saw two men jumping from the second floor.

He looked up to see two other people balancing on a ledge, hanging onto bamboo-pole holders outside a window on the second floor, with black smoke billowing behind them.

The 31-year-old immediately alerted the cleaner in charge of the area, Mr Abu Repon Abu Koddus.

When Mr Repon, 38, arrived, he fetched a ladder from a nearby block.

In the meantime, two other cleaners and two neighbours also rallied to help. They placed discarded mattresses on the ground as a safety measure.

They also moved the two men who had already jumped down, Mr Choon Siew Weng, 56, and the other man, 37, to the void deck for their safety.

When the ladder was placed below Ms Teo Siew Choo and Mr Gan Hwee Sun, the two people who were desperately hanging on to escape the fire, they were too afraid to go down.

"The woman was shivering," Mr Repon said, speaking to the media. "So I climbed up, held her hand, and came down with her. Then I brought the man down."

For their public spiritedness, six individuals, including Mr Rahman and Mr Repon, received awards from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF).

Mr Patrick Perera, who also received the award, was in his kitchen in the opposite block when he heard a loud thud from the two residents jumping down.

He rushed to the scene and was the one who placed the mattresses.

The 36-year-old, who rehabilitates injured horses, said he was only doing his duty as a "fellow human".

3rd Civil Defence Division commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Alvin Tan, in presenting the awards to the recipients, said: "It was your quick thinking and fast response that managed to save two of the lives."

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