SINGAPORE - The crackle of the raging fire interrupted his sleep.
Looking out from his third-storey bedroom window, he saw a bright light.
Mr Low Boon Heng, 53, did not waste time putting on his shirt; woke his mother, grabbed his household fire extinguisher from the kitchen and rushed down in an attempt to fight the fire.
But when the cabby got to the ground level, he realised that his fire extinguisher was too small to tame the flames tearing through a shop.
There was nothing he and about four onlookers could do other than wait for firefighters to arrive.
The incident at Block 177, Bukit Batok West Avenue 8, occurred at around 2.40am yesterday.
The fire at the provision shop was so strong that it charred the neighbouring shophouses.
The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said it was alerted at 2.41am.
Two fire engines, one Red Rhino, one ambulance and one support vehicle were deployed and the fire was put out in 10 minutes. No one was hurt.
The SCDF said about 20 people had fled from the block before its officers reached the scene.
A 39-year-old resident of an adjacent block, who wanted to be known only as Mr Ang, told The New Paper that he was in his kitchen cooking noodles and preparing to watch the finals of the World Cup when he heard the commotion.
Mr Ang could see the back of the shophouse from his sixth-storey kitchen window.
He said: "I heard people shouting, followed by several bursting sounds that were probably from the explosion of canned drinks.
"Smoke was coming out from the back of the shop and there were people calling out to those living in the block to evacuate."
After snapping a couple of pictures, he went over to see what was going on. By then, the fire had been extinguished.
Mr Ang said: "I missed the first 15 minutes of the match. I went downstairs to check out the situation again during half-time.
"I like the shop and I know the owner, so my mood for the World Cup was totally affected."
Housewife Vetrivelshanthi, 26, who lives on the second storey of the block, said she had difficulty breathing and her baby was coughing badly during the fire.
The electricity was cut off and the lift was also out of order.
She said: "I was woken up by the noise. People were shouting 'fire, fire', 'water, water'."
Yesterday afternoon, the entire row of six shophouses were closed as electricity had not been restored.
The provision shop was heavily charred.
Workers were seen clearing up a pile of debris.
The shopowner, who declined to be named, said his provision shop wasn't insured.
He said in Mandarin: "I did try to ask around but no insurance company would grant me a fire insurance because of the huge amount of goods that I had been placing in front of my shop."
He added that the store opened in June last year.
Police have classified the case as mischief and are investigating.
This article was first published on July 15, 2014.
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