'We couldn't see anything'

'We couldn't see anything'
Many of those who left the building rested at a nearby getai event.
PHOTO: The New Paper

Smoke filled their lungs and stung their eyes as they stood trapped while the inferno raged a floor below them.

In a desperate attempt to survive, the warehouse manager and five of his colleagues, including two females, locked themselves in their office on the second floor.

The manager, Mr Ho, 41, told The New Paper yesterday: "When we heard the fire alarm, we wanted to run but it was too smoky. "We opened the warehouse door and smoke poured in. We started tearing and couldn't see anything."

The fire broke out at about 5.20pm yesterday on the first floor of 3019, Ubi Road 1. The four-storey industrial building houses multiple warehouses of different companies.

Trapped in their room, Mr Ho said he used his mobile phone to call another colleague, who then informed the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) of their whereabouts. They were rescued about 15 minutes later.

"When the rescuers came, we couldn't even see," said Mr Ho.

"They told all of us to hold hands and they led us out to safety."

A man in his 60s, who did not want to be named, said the fire started in his warehouse on the first floor.

Identifying himself as the boss of a company there, the man said he heard loud popping sounds and investigated.

"I was the only person in my warehouse at that time. I heard the sounds and smelled smoke. I came out and saw fire at the corner of the warehouse, where the wiring is," he said.

"The fire kept growing by the minute. It was like someone was burning offerings for the seventh month in the corner."

Looking dazed, he said that his company deals in mainly porcelain household items. Millions of dollars worth of items, including those made of rubber and plastic, were stashed in the warehouse.

Many from the building had evacuated quickly but 10 people had to be rescued, according to the SCDF, which was alerted to the fire at about 5.34pm.

The fire was so big that three fire engines, two Red Rhinos, two fire bikes, six supporting vehicles, two ambulances and two Unmanned Firefighting Machines (UFM) had to be deployed.

When the officers arrived, the fire was raging at the ground-floor unit and the unit directly above it.

Firefighters initially could not enter the units, which were each about half the size of an Olympic pool. The block was about 100m in length.

BATTLE

SCDF said firefighters wearing breathing apparatus equipment had to battle thick, black smoke billowing from the warehouse.

The smoke also enshrouded the entire block, resulting in poor visibility.

This meant that the SCDF personnel had to exercise extreme caution in fighting the fire as well as search-and-rescue operations.

Of the 10 people rescued, one man was saved after being trapped in a cargo lift. TNP understands that SCDF personnel had to escort a lift technician through the smoke to open the lift as it had become stuck.

One woman who was rescued was taken to Changi General Hospital (CGH) for smoke inhalation.

A firefighter, believed to be one of the team leaders, was also taken to CGH for heat exhaustion.

As of midnight, the fire had yet to be put out but was kept under control using five water jets and a UFM.

There have been no other reported injuries and no one has been reported missing.

Many of those who fled the building sought a place to rest at a nearby getai event, while those who were at the event came out to look at the fire.

Several people even posed for photographs with the fire in the background.

A man who looked to be in his 70s took a chair from the event and placed it closer to the building so he could watch the fire.

He said: "The fire is huge. Better than sitting inside the getai event. It's my first time seeing something like this 'live'."


This article was first published on September 15, 2015.
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