He could only watch helplessly as a raging fire swallowed his house near Yio Chu Kang Road in the middle of the night, claiming the life of his mother and that of a friend.
In just two hours, all that was left of businessman Alvin Tang Hui Jen's Parry Avenue home - a two-storey semi-detached house where his four-generation family lived - were charred, skeletal walls.
Neighbours said that screams, crackling sounds and even explosions drew them out of their homes between 2.15am and 3am.
Housewife Brenda Tham, 57, said her next-door neighbour had tried to climb into the burning house and pull one of the older men towards the gate, which had failed to open.
"The old man told him to save the children," she recalled. "Then there was an explosion. I'm not sure how he got out."
Another neighbour, a 40-year-old secretary who gave her name only as Mrs Lee, said that members of the family, including an elderly man, had climbed out of the second-storey windows and escaped through her compound, climbing over the wall on ladders.
The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and police were alerted at about 3am yesterday to the blaze, which left two dead and six others injured, including a firefighter.
SCDF personnel arrived to find the house engulfed by flames that had shot through the roof.
It took six water jets and more than an hour to contain and put out the fire, which ravaged the property. None of the adjacent units was badly affected.
Six occupants from the razed property managed to evacuate before SCDF's arrival, and first responders helped two other occupants - one of them an elderly man - out of the burning house.
But two bodies were later found lying on the second floor.
The Straits Times understands that one of them was Mr Tang's elderly mother and the other, his business partner.
Mr Tang, who was one of the six survivors, was seen sitting quietly outside his destroyed home, as SCDF and police officers worked to retrieve the bodies among the charred debris.
Two elderly men, one child and two women were taken conscious to Singapore General Hospital for smoke inhalation. A firefighter was taken to Tan Tock Seng Hospital for heat exhaustion.
SCDF and the police are investigating the incident, including what caused the fire.
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