'Don't give up!' Messages pour in after fire at 80-year-old Tampines temple, engineers to carry out checks on Tuesday

In a Facebook post, the temple juxtaposed photos of its prayer altar before (top) and after the fire which caused more than $300,000 in estimated damage.
PHOTO: Facebook/Poh Ann Keng

SINGAPORE - The fire that destroyed the altar and several statuettes at Poh Ann Keng Taoist temple in Tampines on Saturday (Feb 9), broke out at 3am, the temple said in a Facebook post.

In the post uploaded at about 10.30pm on Saturday, the fifth day of Chinese New Year, Poh Ann Keng also thanked those who had expressed concern and offered support to the temple.

A Poh Ann Keng spokesman told The Straits Times that engineers will be conducting checks on the structure of the temple on Tuesday.

"We will be having a temple meeting to discuss further on the reinstatement of the temple," the spokesman said on Sunday.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) is investigating the cause of the fire.

It was alerted to the fire at 95 Tampines Link, the temple's address, at around 6.50am on Saturday.

The fire involved the praying altar and was extinguished using one water jet, SCDF said. No injuries were reported.

The temple said in its Facebook post: "The temple's management are all saddened by the incident, and we hope that we can rebuild the temple in the near future."

In its post was an image that juxtaposed photos of the temple's altar before and after the fire.

In one photo, the wooden altar is decked out with offerings and colourful religious artefacts. In the other, the whole altar and its surroundings have been nearly completely reduced to ash.

Supporters commented with messages of encouragement and commiseration.

Facebook user AH HO wrote in Chinese that the "heartless" fire burned away the memories of countless people, but asked the temple's management not to give up.

"With perseverance and faith, you can definitely do it," the user said. Another user, Hodder Melvin, said in Chinese: "Don't worry, it will get repaired soon. Keep it up! Please take care of yourselves as well."

The fire also damaged several statuettes in the historic temple dating back at least 80 years when the late philanthropist Tan Kim Seng popularised it in the 1930s.

A temple volunteer, who wanted to be known only as Mr Tan, estimated the damage to be between $300,000 and $400,000.

"I am very sad... some of these statues that were destroyed in the fire were as old as the temple itself," the 56-year-old told ST on Saturday.

Shin Min Daily News reported that about 30 statuettes were destroyed in the fire.

Temple director Xie Laifa, 70, told the Chinese-language newspaper that the temple had spent tens of thousands of dollars renovating last November.

"We installed a new exhaust fan and repainted. Some of these statues are specially imported from China. To see them all burned to cinders now is regrettable," he said.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.