Singapore

Workers who lost everything in Choa Chu Kang fire get surprise gifts from police

Morning blaze at workers' dormitory in Choa Chu Kang yesterday

Asleep in only his underwear, he was awoken when smoke entered his room.

The construction worker dashed out as flames consumed his dormitory. While thankful he escaped, he and his colleagues were devastated to see their Singapore home had been gutted.

Everything they owned, from money to clothes and computers, was gone.

The fire broke out at the three-storey workers' dormitory at Choa Chu Kang Avenue 1 yesterday at 9am.

Clad in a borrowed shirt and sarong, the Chinese national, who declined to be named, told The New Paper: "All I could see was smoke. I tried to grab the fire hose but the fire was too strong. I ran out in my underwear."

When TNP arrived at the scene, a group of over 200 construction workers had gathered. Close to half of them, employed by Kuan Aik Hong Construction, lived in the gutted dormitory. Some had been paid their wages just the day before.

A worker, who wanted to be known as Mr Lee, 47, was so desperate, he braved the flames and ran into the burning building.

Pointing to a red satchel he was hugging tightly, Mr Lee said: "I have $1,000 inside. Even though the smoke was suffocating, I had to go back and get it.

"But even with the money, I don't know where I'll be sleeping tonight."

Another worker, who wanted to be known as Mr Che, 45, said he lost a new computer and $500.

He said: "I just received my salary a week ago and spent half of it on the computer."

He was planning to send the $500 to his family in China.

Bangladeshi Sayfun Isslam, 30, showed TNP a list of possessions he had lost in the fire - scribbled on a piece of a crumpled napkin. The list, which included his laptop, passport and work permit, was short but clearly meant a lot to him.

TWO MONTHS' PAY

He said: "Two months of salary are gone. I can't send it to my family and they are waiting."

He had intended to send $2,000 to his family of six in Bangladesh this Sunday.

Mr Sayfun tried to enter the burning dormitory but was unsuccessful as "the smoke was too thick".

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) was alerted to the fire at around 9.30am.It said the fire was put under control within 30 minutes and extinguished within an hour.

Three firefighters were hurt and taken to the National University Hospital. Their injuries included chest pain, backache and a swollen foot.

No workers were injured.

The second and third storeys of the dormitory were completely gutted while the white walls on the first storey were charred.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

fireForeign WorkerChoa Chu KangdonationSingapore Police Force