Marina Bay bumboat fire: "It was bizarre sight"
Boatman missing after river taxi fire near Esplanade
He was photographing the Singapore cityscape near the water's edge at the Esplanade when he noticed a bumboat slowly cruising towards him yesterday evening.
But something seemed amiss, said Mr Rodrigo Rivas, 33, a tourist from Mexico.
"I saw vapour coming out from the boat and I thought it was just those mist machines that they use to cool people off," Mr Rivas told The New Paper yesterday.
"It was only after a while that I realised it was smoke, and the boat was on fire.
"My only thought then was that I hoped no one was hurt."
A search operation is underway to find the man reported missing after jumping overboard sometime during the incident. TNP PHOTO: ISKANDAR ROSSALI
Mr Rivas said he looked on as flames soon engulfed the river taxi, which he first spotted at around 6.25pm.
A man, who was on board and believed to be its operator, was reported missing after jumping overboard sometime during the incident.
In videos taken by onlookers around the bay, bumboats can be seen approaching the boat that was on fire, but there were no sightings of the man who had jumped overboard.
TNP understands that he is the boat's captain.
Divers from the Singapore Civil Defence Force's Disaster and Rescue Team (Dart) were later sent out to find him.
He had not been found at press time. No one else was hurt.
During the incident, the thick black smoke from the boat rose high into the evening sky, setting a gloomy cast on the Singapore skyline.
Social media was abuzz with videos and photos of the blazing boat taken from skyscrapers in the area.
From the National Library, it looked like the Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay was on fire.
Mr Rivas said he first noticed the boat while taking photographs of the Marina Bay Sands.
After realising that the boat was aflame, he said he warned passers-by in the hope that someone would alert the authorities and firefighters.
"I didn't know what number to call and I just hoped someone around me did. It was worrying.
"By that time, it didn't seem like there was anyone on board," he said.
Other media outlets, however, quoted eyewitnesses who saw a man jump off the boat.
Mr Rivas, who was near the Outdoor Theatre, said: "It was a bizarre sight. The boat was on fire and it was just slowly drifting towards the shore where I was."
While the fire started out small, it grew bigger and engulfed the boat, which eventually drifted near the shore, he said.
An SCDF spokesman said they were alerted to the incident at 6.26pm.
Firefighters stationed on the river bank near the Esplanade put out the fire using two water jets.
Divers from Dart were later dispatched to search for the missing man.
The river taxi operator, Singapore River Cruise, could not be reached for comment.
When TNP visited the scene at about 7.15pm, the area between the Esplanade and Jubilee Bridge had been cordoned off. The charred and blackened top of the bumboat, which was still floating, was docked by the river.