Singapore

Tuas fire: An explosion, then victims ran out screaming

Ten workers with burn injuries taken to hospital after fire breaks out in unit dealing in fire protection systems

When he heard an explosion from a nearby workshop, Mr Islam Ruhul rushed to its rear entrance and saw a disoriented and badly burnt man.

The 35-year-old migrant worker said he moved the injured man away and used a penknife to cut away the remains of his clothes, which had caught fire.

This was in the aftermath of a fire at an industrial building in Tuas yesterday morning that landed 10 people in hospital for burn injuries.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said on Facebook that it responded to the fire at 32E Tuas Avenue 11 at about 11.25am yesterday.

About 65 people had evacuated before the arrival of firefighters, it added.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The incident happened at Platinum@Pioneer, an industrial development with 16 terraced factory units and a canteen housed in two buildings.

The registered tenant of the three-storey unit is Shield+, but the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) identified the occupier of the unit as Stars Engrg, which deals with fire protection systems,.

SCDF said the unit was smoke-logged when its firefighters arrived.

"The fire involved an industrial mixer in the affected unit and was extinguished with two water jets," SCDF added.

Mr Ruhul, who works for construction firm Swees-Tech Engineering, said the explosion occurred around 11am.

The firm's owner, Mr John Tan, was in his office when the fire broke out. He and his workers rushed to the scene and started evacuating the victims.

"Some of them ran out screaming but they lost their (sense of) direction," he said.

Mr Tan added that smoke was coming out from the unit and there were flames inside.

Three other migrant workers - Mr Miah Md Likhon, 24; Mr Hossin Shakil, 24; and Mr Hridoy Md Reyaz Uddin, 22 - left their dormitory in the next building to help the victims.

"We (took) water... and (poured it) on them," Mr Likhon said.

Mr Hridoy said the building's fire alarm and sprinklers were activated after the explosion, and SCDF vehicles arrived about five minutes later.

Mr Sardar Nazmul, 32, was in his dormitory at the unit next door when the incident occurred.

He saw the victims after going out to investigate. Some of them had skin peeling from their faces while others were bleeding from the soles of their feet, he said.

Mr Wong Wee Chiang, 45, who owns mechanical engineering firm P3 Project, said he evacuated with his staff after hearing the explosion. His firm occupies the unit opposite Stars Engrg.

He said he later found out two of his workers had suffered minor injuries. One had burns on his hands and buttocks while the other had been knocked to the ground by the blast.

He took both of them to Ng Teng Fong General Hospital before SCDF personnel arrived.

The other eight with burn injuries work in Stars Engrg and were taken to Singapore General Hospital. Their condition is still being monitored.

When contacted, Stars Engrg spokesman Chua Xing Da, who is also the director for Shield+, declined to comment, saying it was "not a good time to say anything".

CORDONED OFF

The area around the affected unit was cordoned off by the police. As of 7.30pm yesterday, the cordon was still in place.

A fire engine and an SCDF hazmat vehicle were on site, along with SCDF personnel investigating the unit. A drone was later deployed between the buildings.

Some workers were later allowed to enter the unit next to the burnt unit, and took down luggage and boarded lorries.

The Straits Times understands the ground floor of the building is solely for industrial use, but the upper levels can be used for dorms.

"There were fewer than 20 migrant workers staying on the site where the explosion took place," MOM said.

Separate housing arrangements are being made for the unhurt workers, added MOM, which is working with the employer to ensure their well-being is taken care of.

The ministry said it is investigating the incident.

A spokesman for Soon Hock Group, the developer of Platinum@Pioneer, said it will also be sending a team down to conduct investigations.

ACCIDENTS FIRE FLOOD