8,000kg of trash cleared from one flat

PHOTO: The New Paper

There were once 2,000 to 3,000 cockroaches in the Lim family's home in Jurong West.

There was so much junk in the four-room flat it allowed the roaches and bed bugs to breed rapidly.

The junk included a rubbish chute cover, dirty furniture and clothes, and leftover Chinese New Year goodies and the pests had a field day scurrying around 8,000kg of trash.

But after a six-day cleanup, one of the flat's occupants said she could finally sleep for 12 hours without being bitten by bugs.

Last week, The New Paper reported on how the family of Mr Lim Lye Soon, 83, was found living amid the junk in two adjoining flats at Block 919.

Mr Lim lives in one unit with his daughter, Ms Lim Siew Tin, 52, and his youngest son, Mr Lim Tian Wah, 49.

His other sons, Mr Lim Thien Seng, 53, and Mr Lim Tuan Huat, 56, live in the other unit, which is just as cluttered.

All his children are believed to be patients of the Institute of Mental Health.

Ms Geraldine Yoong, 37, managing director of interior design consultancy HomeSavv, said a team will clean the second unit on Aug 15 and 16.

Volunteers and professional cleaners spent the whole of last weekend decluttering the first unit.

Ms Yoong coordinated the cleanup from Day One. She said: "I saw around 2,000 to 3,000 cockroaches.

"Cockroach eggs were inside everything. They were also on the ceiling and in the toilet and store room."

The master bedroom was infested with around 100 bed bugs, according to Pestology, when it fumigated the flat on Monday.

By 6pm on Wednesday evening, the first unit was cleaned. The walls were freshly painted and the lights were fixed.

In total, 8,000kg of junk including bug-infested furniture, five old television sets and grimy paintings were disposed of.

The clutter was removed by the Chua Chu Kang Town Council on Sunday and Monday.

But it was not easy. Now and then during the clean-up, a family member would try to retrieve some items.

Ms Yoong said: "It took a lot of patience as they kept taking things out of the temporary bins. I had to convince them to stop."

Her colleagues and friends donated household items such as cabinets and beds to replace the old, infested ones.

Ms Yoong said: "This is one of the worst cases we have handled in terms of the amount of rubbish and cockroaches."

Weekly checks

Founded last year, HomeSavv has handled around 80 cases of refurbishing homes for low-income families staying in one-room rentals.

This included clearing last month the flat of an unemployed man who did not shower for 10 years. The flat was at Block 106, Jalan Bukit Merah.

Ms Yoong will visit the Lim family at least once a week to check on them.

Police officers, government agencies and companies like HomeSavv, Genie Cleaning Centre and Design 4 Works helped to refurbish the unit.

When TNP visited the family on Wednesday afternoon, Mr Lim Lye Soon, Ms Lim Siew Tin and Mr Lim Tian Wah were happily digging into packets of chicken rice bought by HomeSavv employees.

A grateful Ms Lim profusely thanked the Singapore Police Force and other volunteers in Mandarin.

She said: "The flat is very beautiful. I am really thankful to everyone. They donated all our new furniture."

Ms Lim added: "For the first time in 10 years, I slept soundly from 8pm to 8am without getting bitten."

Ms Ang Li Chang, 27, a fresh graduate who lives next door with her parents and younger brother, was happy for the family.

She told TNP: "The flat is so much more spacious and there is room to walk."

Other neighbours were delighted as they told TNP that no cockroaches have flown into their flats since the clean-up.

Mr Ong Tian Kin, 63, a retiree who lives a storey below, said: "Previously, there were many cockroaches, but now there aren't any.

Ms Yoong stressed that the family need to be disciplined in keeping their flats clean, adding: "We definitely need social services to follow up on them. Given their mental state, it is difficult to maintain hygiene."

This article was first published on August 8, 2015. Get The New Paper for more stories.