2 die in Bukit Timah house fire

2 die in Bukit Timah house fire
The fire destroyed the Jalan Gaharu house (above) and damaged the back of another next door.

Two men died in a fire that ravaged a terrace house in Bukit Timah early on Sunday morning.

Believed to be a father and son from Malaysia, they were tenants of a room in the single-storey house in Jalan Gaharu, part of a private estate off Dunearn Road. Three other occupants - a Filipino husband and wife, both 35, and a 63-year-old Malaysian woman - were sent to the National University Hospital (NUH) after inhaling smoke.

Along with police, the Singapore Civil Defence Force was alerted to the fire at 4.16am. It took 30 minutes and three water jets to put out the fire.

The men were pronounced dead at the scene. Police have not confirmed their identities.

Neighbours said the son, 22, was a permanent resident serving his national service who came home only on weekends. The father is believed to have been about 60 years old.

Three of the son's army friends and his commanding officer visited the house. Full-time national serviceman Sean Ho, 21, said the son was "carefree and jovial", and that he has a mother and sister living in Malaysia.

The Filipino tenants said they had a narrow escape.

"We grabbed only our phones and climbed out the back fence onto the roof of the house behind us... It was very dark," said the woman, who wanted to be known only as Chat. She has been renting a room in the house with her husband for five years.

The couple and another tenant, who gave his name only as Vincent, 34, escaped barefoot and in their pyjamas.

Neighbours said the house was used as a temple, where devotees of the Taoist Goddess of Mercy Guan Yin would pray and consult with a shi fu (Chinese for "master") - a woman in her 60s.

"They light a lot of offerings and candles, and there's a lot of paper. It's a big fire risk," said British neighbour and IT professional Mr Mackay, 36, who lives next door. The heat from the fire melted his two bicycles and damaged a bedroom where one of his four children sleeps.

The Straits Times understands that the shi fu was one of the three admitted to NUH, and that she does not own the house.

When The Straits Times visited the place, remnants of an altar and a Buddha statue could be seen from outside the house. On the gate was a sign of a temple's name in Chinese, Fo Hai Jiu Shi Pu Zhao Si.


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