Fire causes $300k in damage at 80-year-old Taoist temple in Tampines

PHOTO: Facebook/SCDFpage

SINGAPORE - What should have been an auspicious day turned out to be an ill-fated one for a Taoist temple in Tampines.

A fire at the Poh Ann Keng temple badly damaged the front hall, prayer altar and several statuettes on Saturday morning (Feb 9), the fifth day of Chinese New Year.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said it was alerted to the fire at 95 Tampines Link, the temple's address, at around 6.50am.

The fire involved the praying altar and was extinguished using one water jet, SCDF said.

No injuries were reported, and SCDF is investigating the cause of the fire.

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," said the 56-year-old.

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.

Engineers have been asked to assess the damage before it is deemed safe to begin repair works, Mr Tan said.

The temple, known for its five statues of the Monkey King, dates back more than 80 years when the late philanthropist Tan Kim Seng popularised it in the 1930s.

Some of the artefacts in the temple are believed to be more than a century old, the temple's website claims.

According to the site, the temple's location has shifted many times in its history.

Poh Ann Keng moved from its Geylang location after World War II to serve devotees at Peck Seah Street.

Then in 1990, it moved back to Geylang, before shifting to Upper Boon Keng Road in 1993.

It moved to Braddell Road in 1996, back to Geylang in 1999, and finally opened its new premises in Tampines in 2004 where it has stayed since.

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