More mindful about fire safety after blaze

SINGAPORE - After a fire gutted their stalls at East Coast Lagoon Food Village on June 28, the four affected owners have picked up the pieces and moved on.

They reopened for business after rebuilding their stalls and a three-month renovation of the hawker centre.

The blaze cost the owners of stalls 54 to 57 tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage.

Following the incident, the owners are now more mindful about fire safety and have introduced new processes to lure customers back.

"We don't barbecue our chicken wings over charcoal any more. Instead, we use an oven. It is more hygienic," said Ms Harlina Haron, 40, owner of famous satay stall Haron Satay. The stall now uses paging coasters to cut waiting times for customers.

Owner of stall 54, Ms Zaiton Mohamed Nor, 60, said she has become more aware about potential fire hazards.

"I make sure that the wires are kept properly and that the gas is switched off before I leave my stall," said Ms Zaiton, who sells dishes such as mee soto and satay.

Regular patrons have also been making their way back since the hawker centre reopened last week.

"During the first two days, business was quite slow because not many people knew we were open. But now, it is picking up," said Ms Zaiton.

In August, the centre was closed for a $1.5 million renovation as part of a National Environment Agency programme to keep hawker centres in good condition.

Among other improvements, it now has more seats and refurbished toilets.

During the five months of his stall's closure, owner of Adiman Seafood and Satay Specialist, Mr Suradi Osman, 53, stayed at home most of the time and lived off his savings.

Others like Mr Kassim Jumat, 57, who works at drinks stall Ahmad Spring Cafe, found a temporary job to earn some income.

The reopening of the food centre is good news for regular patrons like Mr Ivan Ng, 53.

The Bedok resident said: "When this place was closed, I had to eat at other coffee shops. The food there was okay but I really missed the atmosphere here."

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