Gripped with fear, Mr Mohd Ani Mohd, 82, cried out as he lay crouched on the toilet floor naked: "Tolong, tolong (Malay for help, help)".
It was around 2am yesterday and Mr Mohd Ani was in serious trouble. He had dropped something into the drainage pipe in the bathroom of his Bedok North flat.
It is unclear what he dropped but the widower, who lives alone in a three-room flat on the eighth storey, got his hand stuck in the pipe. He ended up lying in that position for 13 hours until he was freed by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) .
Witnesses told The New Paper they heard cries for help from the eighth storey around 2am.
One neighbour, who did not want to be named, said she heard Mr Mohd Ani shout "tolong, tolong" but did nothing because he supposedly "always made noise".
Another neighbour said she heard faint cries but thought nothing of it and went back to sleep.
So, Mr Mohd Ani lay there until 11am - when his son Osman Mohd Ani, who is in his 50s, came to bring his father food. He saw his father lying prone in the bathroom.
Mr Osman told TNP how he tried to free his father.
"We tried to pull him but we couldn't release him," he said.
But Mr Osman's sister, Madam Mariati Mohd Ani, said: "He tried that for nearly an hour and then he called the SCDF for help at noon."
She said parts of her father's body were blue-black.
The library assistant, who is the youngest of five children, arrived minutes before the SCDF.
She said she was shocked to see her father in such a state.
"When the SCDF arrived, the first thing they did was to check his vital signs. They sedated him and tried to remove his arm but could not," she said.
She said she then went to the void deck as she did not want to get in the way.
The SCDF said they were alerted at 12.06pm. A fire engine, a Red Rhino, two supporting vehicles and an ambulance rushed to the scene.
Leading 20 men to rescue Mr Mohd Ani was SCDF Major Tan Teck Ming, commander of Tampines Fire Station.
Speaking to TNP yesterday after the three hour rescue operation, Major Tan said: "It was a complex rescue operation as the entire left arm (right up to the shoulder) was trapped in the pipe."
Rescuers first lubricated Mr Mohd Ani's arm in an attempt to release him from the water pipe. But that failed, so they had to resort to more extreme measures.
Major Tan said the SCDF Disaster Assistance Rescue Team (Dart) was activated.
The team tried to access the pipe from the unit directly below Mr Mohd Ani's flat by breaking the pipe and the surrounding concrete to extract his trapped arm.
Major Tan said the operation was "conducted cautiously" as it had to be done without aggravating Mr Mohd Ani's situation.
A team - comprising a doctor and several nurses - from Changi General Hospital was also called in to monitor the stocky elderly man's vital signs.
They administered an intravenous injection to stabilise Mr Mohd Ani and gave him painkillers to alleviate the pain, an SCDF spokesman told TNP.
Explaining the rescue procedure, Major Tan said his team "used cutting and breaking equipment to cut and prise the pipe from the unit below".
This meant that rescuers also had to cut the concrete ceiling surrounding the pipe inside Madam Pan Choy Chan's flat.
Madam Pan, 73, told TNP that she was out yesterday but rushed home when a neighbour called her to tell her there were "firemen waiting outside my flat".
Throughout the rescue, Mr Mohd Ani's family paced nervously at the void deck, hoping for the best.
"Rescuers told us that my father wriggled his fingers to show that he could still move his hand. But he also said it was painful," said Madam Mariati.
Around 3pm, residents and family members who gathered around the void deck sighed in relief when they finally saw Mr Mohd Ani emerge from the lift, wheeled on a stretcher to a waiting ambulance.
He was taken to Changi General Hospital with a portion of the pipe cover still wrapped around his arm.
At the hospital, Madam Mariati told TNP that her father was being assessed at the accident and emergency department.
"They are trying to see if he is fit to go for an operation," she said before going back in to see her father.
Mr Mohd Ani's eldest daughter, Madam Aisha Mohd Ani, 57, said her father has been living alone after her mother died a few years ago.
The patient service assistant at Bedok Polyclinic said: "At his age, we know he is not supposed to be living alone, but he doesn't want to live with any of us.
"We want to take care of him. In fact, my siblings and I make it a point to send him food every day, just to make sure he is all right."
1. Mr Mohd Ani Mohd, 82, accidentally gets his arm trapped in a drainpipe in his bathroom while trying to retrieve something. He is stuck for more than 10 hours.
2. Son discovers him at 11am and calls family while trying to pull him out. They eventually call the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) at around noon.
3. SCDF arrives in six minutes. Unable to pull him out, they use cutting tools and breaking equipment to prise the pipe open from the ceiling of unit below.
4. At the same time, an SCDF ambulance crew and a medical team from Changi Hospital monitor Mr Mohd Ani and give him painkillers. After three hours, he is freed and taken to Changi General Hospital.
This article was first published on June 9, 2014.
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