Like any other Monday morning, sous chef Raj Pal was in the kitchen of the Jungle Tandoor Restaurant getting ready for opening at 11am.
But yesterday, as he was preparing food an hour before the doors opened, he was overwhelmed by the pungent smell of burnt plastic and went out to investigate.
When he saw thick, black smoke billowing from the second-storey of the restaurant, Mr Pal, 33, immediately shouted for his two colleagues to evacuate.
"Fire came down from upstairs (to the kitchen downstairs) through the ventilation system," he said. "We called the fire brigade, switched off the gas and stayed outside."
The trio escaped unscathed as a crowd started to build outside the restaurant, at the junction of Serangoon Road and Cuff Road.
The plumes of black smoke could be seen from as far as Tekka Market, about 400m away, where security guard Joshua Singh, 47, was having breakfast.
He walked down to take a closer look, joining the crowd of onlookers when he suddenly heard several explosions.
He said: "All the people ran backwards. The explosions came and they all started to run back.
"Some were shouting at their friends not to go too close because they were worried that the gas cylinders on the ground floor could explode."
Another witness, Mr Bala Murimuthu, 30, said he heard four explosions that sounded "like fireworks".
He said the fire had started out small but eventually grew in strength.
The smoke was so thick, motorists travelling along Serangoon Road had to slow down, said Mr Bala, who is unemployed.
Despite having their headlights on, it was still difficult to see through the smoke, he added.
"It was all black, all smoke. Everything also cannot see. The drivers all had to press their horns," said Mr Bala.
The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) was notified about the fire at 10.10am and dispatched two fire engines, a Red Rhino, a support vehicle and an ambulance to the scene.
An SCDF spokesman said the fire was extinguished using two water jets.
No injuries were reported and the cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Speaking to The New Paper over the phone, restaurant owner Rakesh Kumar, 53, said he did not know how much damage the fire had caused.
He said he would get someone to have a look at the damage today.
Ten other people from nearby shops had also evacuated by the time SCDF arrived, the spokesman said.
One of them was Mr Mahesh Batavia, 59, who owns a textile shop next door. He was minding his store when the fire broke out.
He was relieved not to have suffered any damage to his property and goods. Power was only restored to his shop at about 3pm.
"Our switches have problems and our air-conditioners aren't working," he said.
"Without the air-conditioning, customers won't come in, so our business has definitely been affected."
This article was first published on Aug 18, 2015.
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