Geylang fire: Boss 'not aware' of workers' cramped living conditions

Geylang fire: Boss 'not aware' of workers' cramped living conditions
Some occupants reportedly jumped from the window of the second- floor apartment to escape the fire on Friday.

The employer of the two foreign workers who died in a fire in Geylang on Friday said yesterday that he did not know they were living in such crowded conditions.

Mr Thanapalan Vijayan, 40, who owns electrical and construction company Prower Tech Engineering Services, told The Sunday Times that six of his workers lived in the Geylang Lorong 6 apartment that caught fire.

They previously stayed in an apartment in Geylang Lorong 24 but told him last month that they wanted to move out.

"They said they wanted to be near the MRT," he said, adding that they found the new lodgings in Lorong 6 on their own.

The landlord had shown Mr Thanapalan the property. "I saw one small room with two double-decker beds, and another room with four beds. All the other doors were locked," he said. Asked if price was a factor in him approving the place, he said: "It's not cheaper, they're all the same."

The Straits Times reported yesterday that more than 30 workers had been living in the second-floor apartment, though the landlord said the agreement he signed with a master tenant limited the number of tenants to eight or 10.

The apartment caught fire last Friday, just three days after the six men moved in, and a week after it was inspected by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF).

The early morning blaze killed Bangladeshis Mamun Abdullah, 22, and Hosen Ali, 20, and injured three other men.

Police and SCDF investigations are ongoing.

Mr Thanapalan said that the other four workers from his company staying in the apartment will move into a dormitory tomorrow. He has given them $600 to stay in a hotel over the weekend.

He is arranging for the two men's bodies to be flown back to Bangladesh, and his company is covering the cost.

He said Mr Hosen was from Barisal in Bangladesh, but he did not know which area Mr Mamun was from.

"It's very sad because they have just arrived," he said. "They had so much money to pay to their agents."

This article was first published on Apr 5, 2015.
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