Pest-infested flat plagues neighbours

Pest-infested flat plagues neighbours
Mr Lim Chin Ting, 74, sits in his cluttered flat, which was infested with cockroaches. Follow up to cockroach infestation at a sixth-storey unit of 19 Eunos Crescent on 28 April 2015. The dark spots on the wall (left) are smashed remains of cockroaches.

Every night for the past 16 years, Ms Nur'Ashikin Zainol and her family have shut the windows of their Eunos Crescent flat before sleeping, for fear that cockroaches would join them in bed.

"Every day, we encounter five to 10 cockroaches. In the night, when you go to the toilet, you will surely kill one or two," said the 33-year-old cake decorator.

Her husband, building maintenance technician Fazlan Sahat, 33, said the pests have even wriggled into his pants before.

"Just the other night, a cockroach nearly crawled into my son's ear," Ms Nur'Ashikin said.

The source of the infestation? A three-room flat next door, occupied by Mr Lim Chin Ting, 74, and his wife, Madam Soh Siew Zhen, 66.

A musky, sour stench hung over the couple's flat when The Straits Times visited yesterday.

Stacks of newspapers, clothes, boxes, empty bottles and cans, and even a bicycle wheel lined the walls. The items filled the rooms and kitchen to a chest-high level, and there was only a narrow passage left for walking.

Dozens of cockroaches were crawling around, while dead ones peppered the sticky floor and even the walls.

But Mr Lim, a drink-stall assistant, said he is not bothered by the grime. "I'm used to it," he said in Mandarin, shrugging.

He said his wife hoards the items, and he sleeps on the living room sofa as there is nowhere else to rest. "If I touch her stuff, she will scold me."

The couple, who have lived there since 1977, are not on speaking terms.

Mr Lim said Madam Soh's habit became much worse about five years ago. "Every day, she brings back two or three bags."

The National Environment Agency, Marine Parade Town Council and Housing Board said in a joint statement yesterday that the unit was inspected on Monday because of a dengue cluster in the neighbourhood. Insecticide was sprayed to kill adult mosquitoes.

"The insecticide was also effective against the large population of cockroaches that was present in the flat," the statement said.

It added that the town council cleaned up the common corridor, and would work with HDB and the residents to "ensure that the flat is properly maintained".

Ms Nur'Ashikin posted a video on Facebook of cockroaches swarming the corridor after the spraying was carried out. The video has been viewed more than 270,000 times. "We just want (the couple) to get help. It's a hygiene problem," she said.

But an indignant Madam Soh told The Straits Times in the void deck: "Why can't I keep my things? It's not like I have a lot."

The unemployed woman said she was aware the clutter might pose a problem. "If I want to clear it, I can. But I need my stuff."

This article was first published on April 29, 2015.
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