Main TV studio burnt down 6 days after Separation

Singapore's main television studio at Caldecott Hill was burnt down in a fire on Aug 15, 1965, disrupting TV programming and destroying an estimated $250,000 worth of equipment.

It was the studio used several times by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew for his televised press conferences after Singapore's separation from Malaysia on Aug 9.

He was due to have another press conference in the studio a day after the fire.

Television programmes were interrupted for about three hours from 3.35 pm to 6.30pm, but radio broadcasts were not affected.

As firemen tried to get the blaze under control, staff headed to an emergency studio in Bukit Batok to restart transmission. About 30 to 40 people were in the building when the fire happened. All fled to safety in time and no one was hurt.

Mr P.S. Raman, the acting head of broadcasting, who was among the first at the scene, told reporters the day's transmission would resume with a modified programme and news.

The fire was reported by a Malacca scout master who was at the studio to record a programmed titled Campfire. Said Mr Morace Sta Maria: "Twelve scouts and guides had just finished recording the programme in the studios with me when I noticed flames licking the curtains at a corner of the studio."

The others had left the room, but two girls did not notice the smoke that was slowly filling up the room. "So I raised the alarm and all of us moved out," he said.

About 10 men remained in the master control room to continue broadcasts. But pungent fumes forced them to flee 10 minutes later, interrupting an Indian classical music programme that was being aired.

Two firemen stationed at the TV station alerted their headquarters in Hill Street and a fire-fighting team was at the scene by 3.45pm. By 4.40pm, the blaze was under control.

Two Cabinet Ministers, Social Affairs and Culture Minister Othman Wok and Foreign Minister S. Rajaratnam, arrived at the station to watch the firemen in action.

Mr Raman said the fire might have been sparked by a short circuit, but also noted that a programme involving fire had just been recorded.

This article was first published on August 16, 2015.
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