Fire traps grandma, boy in Punggol flat

The fire was confined to the flat’s study but other parts of the unit were also damaged

SINGAPORE - An elderly woman and her four-year-old grandson found themselves trapped in their 17th floor Punggol flat after a fire broke out in one of the rooms on Monday morning.

The flat owner, who wanted to be known only as Mr Chua, told The Straits Times that his mother, in her early 60s, and only child had been home when something caught fire in the study.

Two next-door neighbours said both grandmother and child were locked in and screaming for help as the key to the gate of their four-room flat was in the study.

Alerted to the fire at 9.47am, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) dispatched seven emergency response vehicles to the scene. Firefighters forcibly entered the flat to rescue the duo and used a single water jet to put out the fire. Both grandmother and grandchild were taken conscious to hospital for smoke inhalation.

The elderly woman also had first-degree burns and has been put in the intensive care unit at the Singapore General Hospital, said Mr Chua, 42, who lives in the flat with his mother, son and wife. His mother "breathed in too much smoke", he said, further aggravating existing medical conditions. His son, meanwhile, is being monitored in a high dependency ward at the KK Women's and Children's Hospital, said Mr Chua, who declined to give his occupation.

When The Straits Times arrived on the scene, SCDF personnel were seen removing burnt objects from the flat. Toys and a toddler's booster seat lay blackened with soot outside the front door, alongside a broken lock.

A neighbour, home-business owner Ong Huiqin, 31, said she rushed out of her flat next door when she smelled smoke and heard screams. "I saw the firemen trying to break open the gate and the grandmother was shouting for them to hurry up."

One storey up, 24-year-old project manager Stephanie Chia, whose bedroom lies directly above the room that caught fire, said she smelled smoke and heard the ground creak before the screaming began. "The lights were flickering and I was afraid that my room would collapse, so I thought it would be safest to get out. It was only when I got to the ground floor that I realised how big the fire actually was," she said.

SCDF evacuated three floors in the building and as residents scrambled out, small explosions were heard, said housewife Tan Yet Lee, 41, who also lives on the 17th floor.

The flames were confined to the study, although other parts of the Chuas' flat were also damaged.

The exact cause of the fire is still under investigation. 

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