PHOTO: The New Paper
Four months after a fire destroyed the livelihood of 51 stallholders in Jurong West, many have resumed business at a temporary wet market set up at a basketball court.
The oldest stallholder, Mr Neo Chwee Eng, 82, who sells yong tau foo, is grateful to be back in business as he is the breadwinner in the family.
The fire on Oct 11 destroyed a 31-year-old wet market and coffee shop at Block 493, Jurong West Street 41.
A privately-run coffee shop at adjoining Block 494 was also badly damaged.
Lim Ying Siang, 41, has been charged with starting the fire.
On Jan 1, 23 stallholders resumed business at the temporary market, which cost $600,000 to build, in front of Block 495.
Mr Neo told The New Paper: "Business is good, and many of my regular customers continue to support me."
He pays $800 a month to rent the stall, up from $700 previously.
Fire destroys Jurong coffeeshop and wet market
His customer of over 20 years, Madam Ho Wai Lin, 74, said the temporary market, which is just a two-minute walk from the old market, is convenient.
"Before it was built, I had to take the bus to another market," she said.
Mr Neo supports his wheelchair-bound wife and diabetic son, who quit his job after his right leg was amputated.
Some stallholders told TNP that their businesses were not doing well.
Florist Teo Yew Ngee, 67, said he has had a 35 per cent drop in customers.
He said: "Some regulars said they were too lazy to walk here. There's no sheltered walkway here, so we don't have business when it rains."
Construction of a new two-storey complex comprising a market and eldercare facilities is set to begin later this year and is due to be ready by end-2018.
Jurong GRC MP Ang Wei Neng told TNP that the new complex is still in its design stage, and he visited stallholders at the temporary market over Chinese New Year.
He said: "They are happily settling down. All 35 stalls are taken up and business is almost back to normal.
"More than half of the cooked food stalls have settled into nearby coffee shops."
A group called Stand Up for Singapore raised about $32,000 for 22 hawkers in the Block 494 coffee shop.
Mr Wally Tham, 39, the group's founder, said it started the crowdfunding project because hawkers in the privately-run coffee shop were not receiving help, unlike those in the Block 493 market, which is owned by the Housing Board.
This article was first published on February 9, 2017.
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