News @ AsiaOne

No foolproof way to restrict HDB roof access

Discovery of maid's body in water tank puts spotlight on its access. -myp

Wed, May 18, 2011
my paper

Above: Police removing the body of an Indonesian maid found in a water tank (right) on the roof of Block 686B, Woodlands Drive 73, on Monday.

By Rachel Chan

ONLY "authorised personnel" are given the key to the roof-access door of Block 686B, Woodlands Drive 73, but this can mean a number of people, ranging from lift-rescue personnel to workers of conservancy sub-contractors.

Speaking to my paper yesterday, Sembawang Town Council general manager Soon Min Sin said that there is "no foolproof method" to prevent water tanks from being sabotaged.

On Monday morning, residents of Block 686B noticed that their tap water was unnaturally frothy and discoloured.

Soon after, the body of 30-year-old Indonesian maid Ruliyawati was discovered in one of eight water tanks atop the 15-storey block. She worked for a family on the sixth floor.

While it is not known when the body ended up inside the tank, The Straits Times reported yesterday that residents had heard screams at 7am, and that many had used water from their taps before supply was cut off at 11am.

A 27-year-old Bangladeshi maintenance worker from Sergent Services has been arrested in connection with the case.

The incident has put the spotlight on access to a Housing Board block's water tank.

Rooftop-access keys are under "strict control", said Mr Soon.

The Town Council will issue a copy of the roof-access door's key to those carrying out maintenance and emergency lift-rescue work.

"The rule is that the key can be given to only the supervisors (of the sub-contractors) carrying out their work. But for rescue service, of course, the key has to be given to the rescue operator, who may not be a supervisor," he added.

Other than the occasional spot check, the Town Council staff conduct checks on the rooftop once a month, he said.

Ms Ruliyawati's body was discovered within hours, thanks to a "quick-thinking" conservancy manager, said Mr Soon.

The manager sensed something was amiss when bloodstains were found inside a lift, and when one employee did not turn up for work that morning.

He organised a search team, which spotted two pairs of slippers outside the tank where they made the grisly find.

Professor Rohan Gunaratna, who teaches security studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, called for a review of guidelines for rooftop and water-tank access.

Only a very limited number of people should have access to a water tank, he said, adding that a conservancy worker should be accompanied by a building manager or a manager designate at all times.

"Because the water tank is a sensitive asset, it has to be protected all the time," said Prof Gunaratna. Mr Soon said that the Town Council is studying feasible ways to improve security such that maintenance or emergency work is not hindered.

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