Four hurt in flash fire at Old Airport Road stall
She heard an explosion and a piercing scream, then saw clouds of black smoke emanating from the food stall opposite hers at the Old Airport Road Food Centre.
The 53-year-old kway chap stall owner, who wanted to be known only as Madam Oh, told The New Paper: "There were two workers there. The scream came from the worker who had been flung to the floor by the explosion.
"He lay on the floor, blood streaming down his arms.
"I was scared. I quickly grabbed my wallet, pulled down the shutters and ran."
The incident happened yesterday at Xin Mei Congee stall at the popular food centre.
The burnt interior of Xin Mei Congee stall. PHOTO: SCDF
The police and the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) were alerted to the fire around 10am.
Four people were injured: two Union Energy Corporation workers who suffered burns to their arms, their manager who had a cut on his right arm, and a 52-year-old worker at a fish porridge stall located behind the one that caught fire.
She suffered burns to her arms and hands.
Mrs Steven Ng, whose husband owns a fish soup stall, ran after she heard three explosions. TNP PHOTO: BENJAMIN SEETOR
The fire was extinguished by a sprinkler system before SCDF's arrival.
Preliminary investigations revealed that the flash fire was caused by repair work on the gas supply to the food stall, said SCDF.
Mrs Steven Ng, whose husband owns a fish soup stall, said there were three explosions.
"The first happened in the middle of the store where the workers were changing the gas pipes, then it travelled up the pipes and sparked a second explosion.
"It exploded near the air vent a third time, near the ceiling," she said.
"I didn't even notice if other people were running away because I was panicking."
Fortunately, the food centre was not crowded at that time, she added.
When TNP visited the scene at about 11.45am yesterday, cleaners were clearing puddles of water near Xin Mei Congee stall.
Kitchen utensils lay on tables around the unit. Inside the stall, noodles were strewn all over the floor and water was dripping from a shelf.
Stall owners said the gas supply for the food centre was turned off for about an hour following the incident.
Ms Huang Pei Shan, 30, a public affairs manager, said she had stopped by for breakfast.
"But the stall owners told me they were not selling anything because the gas had been turned off. So I left," she said.
Madam Oh, who reopened her stall for business around 11.30am, was upset.
"I lost $400 to $500 because my food is usually sold for breakfast," she said.
Mr Vincent Lim, 47, the owner of Xin Mei Congee stall, arrived at about noon. He found out about the fire from a phone call at 11am.
"The first thing I was worried about was the safety of the people," he said.
He added that he had closed his stall yesterday for the workers to change the old gas pipes.
When contacted, Union Energy Corporation, the gas company doing the work, declined to comment.
Mountbatten MP Lim Biow Chuan, who was at the scene around noon, told TNP: "At the end of the day, lives are more important. Burns can also turn bad and lead to death.
"Union gas says that the stall will be referred to their insurance company so compensation will not be an issue."
The scream came from the worker who had been flung to the floor by the explosion... I quickly grabbed my wallet, pulled down the shutters and ran.
- A kway chap stall owner who wanted to be known only as Madam Oh