Singapore

Monster Tuas blaze put out after 4 hours, no one hurt

No one hurt in fire at Tuas toxic waste management plant, one firefighter taken to hospital with heat exhaustion

He left his dormitory in Tuas South at about 5.30am yesterday to catch the 6.15am bus to work.

As he reached the bus stop behind ECO Special Waste Management at about 5.50am, safety coordinator Periyasamy Manikandam, 34, saw thick clouds of smoke and flames engulfing the premises at 23 Tuas View Circuit.

He said: "The explosions were so loud. It sounded like an air-strike and I thought there were bombs. I've worked in Singapore for 14 years and I've never seen something like this before."

Mr Manikandam said there were some 25 people waiting at the bus stop, and they were taking photos and videos of the fire.

He added: "I didn't dare stand with them. After I realised there was a fire, I crossed the road to get further away.

"The bus arrived, and the driver shouted at us to quickly get on."

The fire also affected other companies in the area.

A Malaysian, who wanted to be known only as Mr Zam, works at Container Connections across the road. He wakes up at 6am every day to ride his motorcycle down from Malaysia, and has friends at ECO Special Waste Management.

Mr Zam said: "My supervisor told me we couldn't work and they were all waiting at the canteen for the road to clear."

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) was alerted at 6.15am and sent 200 personnel to the scene along with 38 emergency vehicles, including three unmanned firefighting machines.

The explosions were so loud. It sounded like an air-strike and I thought there were bombs. Mr Periyasamy Manikandam

SCDF said the premises, which measure about 200m by 200m, were fully engulfed in flames. Explosions rocked the area and SCDF also applied foam to suppress the fire in the drains nearby.

Tuas South Avenue 3 and Tuas View Crescent were closed, and police advised the public to stay away because of hazardous fumes.

The fire was extinguished after four hours and one firefighter was taken to Ng Teng Fong General Hospital with heat exhaustion.

There were no other casualties.

In a Facebook post last night, Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam praised the SCDF officers for doing "extremely well, in fighting and controlling the fire".

In 2012, waste materials at an incinerator plant in Tuas View Crescent owned by ECO Special Waste Management caught fire, but that fire was contained in half an hour.

Monster blaze put out in 4 hours
The SCDF sent 200 personnel and equipment, including unmanned firefighting machines, to the ECO Special Waste Management plant in Tuas yesterday.PHOTOS: SCDF, FACEBOOK/ MUHD ANSAR TAHIR

The home-grown company is licensed by the National Environment Agency as a toxic industrial waste collector, a general waste collector and an asbestos removal contractor.

Its Tuas sludge incineration plant is a first in Singapore and also in South-east Asia. It provides services to industrial and commercial customers from the petrochemical, pharmaceutical, oil and gas, semiconductor and other industries, and has more than 2,000 customers, its website said.

Its chief executive officer Rick Reidinger told The Straits Times that 20 workers at the plant were evacuated and no one was hurt.

He said: "We are still doing an investigation as to the exact source, but the important thing is that nobody is hurt."

Fumes from blaze may be carcinogenic

Yesterday's fire at ECO Special Waste Management at 23 Tuas View Circuit was the largest industrial fire this year.

Workplace safety consultant Lee Wee Kiat said asbestos, which the company handles, is highly toxic and carcinogenic in the long term.

Mr Lee said: "If it was burnt in the fire, it would create a dangerous atmospheric hazard for the people around it."

There were 159 industrial fires last year, according to the latest Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) Fire Incident Statistics Report. That represents 31.4 per cent of the total fires in non-residential premises. There were 158 industrial fires in 2015.

JURONG ISLAND FIRE

One of the biggest fires last year was at a petrochemical facility on Jurong Island when an oil tank caught fire in April.

There were no casualties but the fire raged on for five hours before it was put out by 150 SCDF personnel.

In Oct 2015, Leeden National Oxygen chemist Krysten Lim Siaw Chian, 30, died in a blaze at the gas manufacturing firm in Tanjong Kling Road in Jurong. 

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