M'sian man's shouts save room-mates

HERO: Mr Ramu (illustrated above) died after alerting his room-mates to the fire. TNP ILLUSTRATION: CEL GULAPA

LOSS: (Above) Mr Chanran was shocked to find out that his friend, Mr Ramu, was killed in the fire. (Below) Mr Peter Awat (left) and Mr Sapawi Ahet escaped the blaze.

It was the loud, frantic and continuous thudding on the door that shocked Mr Sapawi Ahet and Mr Peter Awat out of their sleep.

"Api! Api! (fire in Malay)," shouted a fellow Malaysian room-mate, Mr Ramu, who is believed to be in his 50s.

Mr Sapawi, 47, one of seven foreign workers in the first-storey unit of the Geylang shophouse at the time, reacted instantly.

He leapt off his top bunk bed, grabbed his bag and dashed for the entrance. By then, the unit was blanketed in thick smoke.

As he approached the doorway, he noticed Mr Awat, also 47, bolting in the same direction.

"The smoke was so thick. We were blinded by it," said Mr Sapawi in Malay when The New Paper on Sunday met him yesterday morning.

The Malaysian works as a cleaner.

Mr Awat added: "We ran out of the shophouse gasping for air."

A few seconds later, two other room-mates ran out, one choking from inhaling the smoke while the other, Mr Mazlan, 48, moaned in agony after sustaining burn injuries.

The smoke thickened even more after that.


Three men, including Mr Ramu, did not make it out. Singapore Civil Defence Force paramedics pronounced Mr Yusof, 40, Mr Jobikol, 41, and Mr Ramu dead at the scene.

Mr Mazlan died in hospital.

A shaken Mr Sapawi told The New Paper on Sunday: "Yusof and Jobikol were in deep sleep. It took them a few seconds longer to react."

The room-mates claimed that Mr Ramu's son, with whom he worked and lived here, had left for Ipoh for a four-day trip just hours before the fire.

Mr Ramu was also meant to have left for a night out in Johor Baru with an old friend and former colleague, Mr Chanran, at 3pm on Friday afternoon.

Turning up at the scene at 6am, Mr Chanran, 29, held his head in his hands and said: "I was supposed to go to JB with him, but my wife wanted to go with me instead.

"I saw him on Friday to explain and that was the last time I saw him."

He said that Mr Ramu was his former supervisor and that they had shared a strong bond.

Mr Chanran teared at the sight of his dead friend's former residence and said: "He was like a father to me."