Mr Lewis Tan was dining at Clementi Block 448 Market and Food Centre last Tuesday when he noticed that a stallholder had discovered scraps of paper falling from the ceiling.
The stallholder then climbed up a ladder to take a look at the exhaust pipe located above the stall.
To Mr Tan's horror, a rat's nest made from scraps of paper and shredded plastic bags was found on top of the pipe, with as many as 10 baby rats inside.
The stallholder immediately disposed of them.
Mr Tan, who contributed a photo of the baby rats to citizen journalism website Stomp, said: "It was quite gross to see the baby rats.
"This is not the first time rats were found at the food centre."
According to Mr Patrick Sze, chairman of the Clementi Centre Market Hawkers' Association, the rat problem surfaced only after the renovation of a nearby coffee shop, Bgain 442 Eating House, last month.
Rat burrows were also seen in the grassy field just behind the centre.
The 56-year-old, who has received complaints from hawkers about rats before, said: "The reproduction rate (of the rats) is too fast. "We are working with the National Environment Agency (NEA) and West Coast Town Council (WCTC) to resolve the issue."
He added that pest controllers come once a month, and place rat traps around the food centre.
A drinks stall worker, who declined to be named, said: "The rat problem is actually quite bad. I always see rats running around at night, and it's terrifying."
Madam Neo, a 54-year-old stallholder who sells carrot cake and oyster omelette, said she occasionally sees rats running outside the hawker centre.
She said in Mandarin: "I'm worried they might run into my stall one day and bite the wires, causing an electrical fault."
Madam Berlinda Tan, 48, a floral designer who patronises the hawker centre regularly, was concerned about hygiene.
She said: "Some hawkers do not keep their plastic utensils in cupboards, and rats might crawl over them if they are left out in the open."
Responding to queries from The New Paper, a spokesman for WCTC confirmed that they have deployed a pest control contractor to carry out rodent control treatment at the food centre.
Said the spokesman: "We will continue with the treatment and monitor the situation.
"We will also work closely with NEA and the Hawker's Association to advise the stallholders on proper housekeeping and waste disposal management."
Wire nettings stops rats
Bgain 442 Eating House faced a serious rat problem and was renovated to resolve the issue, said Ms Low Piow Ling, the supervisor of the coffee shop.
The 40-year-old added that stallholders had to chase rats away several times a day, either with brooms or hot water.
Once the lights were turned off at night, up to 10 rats could be seen roaming around in the coffee shop, she added. Many stallholders complained to the management about the problem so something had to be done, she added.
The coffee shop was closed for renovations from Nov 18 to Dec 1 last year. Metal grilles and wire netting were added to the back of the stalls to prevent rats from climbing in.
Stallholders said the rat situation has improved since. Mr Samsir Alwi, 55, who owns a Muslim food stall with his wife, said the rat problem already existed when they started working there five years ago.
He even had to place rat traps in his stall to catch them, he said.
He added: "There used to be countless rats running around (in the coffee shop). Now, I only see one or two."
Mr Ooi Cheng Eng, 62, a duck rice seller, said in Mandarin: "Besides rats, the metal grilles also keep out birds. It's more hygienic this way."
Ms Low was empathetic when told that the nearby hawker centre now faces a rat problem.
She said: "Maybe the rats have gone there as they can no longer run (around) in our coffee shop. Hopefully, (the) authorities can solve the problem."
This article was first published on Jan 12, 2015.
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