Mountain of rubbish raises a stink

PHOTO: Mountain of rubbish raises a stink

The exterior of the flat was relatively uncluttered, save for a square side table, four umbrellas which hung from the metal gate and five pairs of ladies' footwear outside the door.

But inside, it was a different picture.

There was barely any walking space as the living room floor was littered with an assortment of plastic bags from different shops, plastic bottles, stacks of newspapers, cardboard boxes, plastic containers and other items.

And this mountain of rubbish extended all the way to the kitchen and to the bedrooms in the four-room flat at Block 83, Strathmore Avenue.

The amount of rubbish in the second-storey unit has raised a stink with some residents in neighbouring flats who complained of a stench coming from the flat whenever the unit's windows were opened.

One of the occupants of the flat, Mr Choo Hok Koong, 60, who is unemployed, said that he shares the flat with his younger sister and they have been living there for about 16 years.

Asked why they were hoarding so many things in their flat, Mr Choo said that they belonged to his younger sister.

Karung guni

He also said that they collect those items so that they can sell them to the karung guni for $3 to $5 each time.

When told of the neighbours' complaints about the foul smell from his flat, Mr Choo said in Mandarin: "My water pipe burst (about a month ago), that's why there's a smell."

He added that his church friends had helped to clean up his flat about two to three times previously.

A voluntary welfare organisation would also be sending their volunteers down on Saturday to clean up his flat, said Mr Choo.

Forced to take action

His immediate neighbour, Mr Vincent Goh, 44, said that he was forced to take action as the smell had persisted for more than a year.

He said that he wrote to the Tanjong Pagar Town Council, the HDB and also their Member of Parliament, Dr Chia Shi-Lu (Tanjong Pagar GRC), to alert them to the matter.

When Mr Choo's windows are shut, there is no smell, said Mr Goh, who works in the construction sector. But if Mr Choo's windows are open, then he is able to smell it from his flat.

Added Mr Goh: "When it's windy, especially the room next to their flat, the smell would come in directly from the window.

"Sometimes in the middle of the night, I am woken up by the smell."

He said that he had previously seen some church members coming down to help Mr Choo clean up his flat on a number of occasions over a period of about one month.

Each time, he said, the church members would throw out about 20 black trash bags of rubbish from the flat.

"They clear out the rubbish on Saturday, but on Sunday morning, I see (Mr Choo's) sister moving back some of the items from the rubbish chute downstairs," said Mr Goh.

He added that he has also seen both siblings bring back plastic bags full of items sometimes.

Another neighbour who lives on the third storey said that during hot weather, the smell wafts up through the open windows at the back of her flat.

The 46-year-old housewife, who declined to be named, said that the smell became progressively worse over the last few years.

When contacted, Dr Chia said that he was aware of the case and that social workers and community leaders have visited Mr Choo at his flat.

He added that he is working with various agencies to provide the necessary assistance to Mr Choo and his sister.

This article was first published in The New Paper.