Man shouts for tenants to run after setting fire to his flat

PHOTO: Shin Min Daily

A man, who had been arguing with his wife on the phone, ended up setting fire to his flat.

One of his tenants and her 3½-year-old daughter were in the flat at that time.

The Saturday evening blaze destroyed the flat but, fortunately, no one was hurt.

The 45-year-old man was later arrested by police.

The dramatic events were recounted to The New Paper by the tenant's husband, who wanted to be known only as Mr Johnson.

The 29-year-old said his wife had told him that from their room, they heard their landlord arguing angrily with someone on the phone.

His voice was booming even with their room door closed and he spoke in Mandarin.

Then, it got all quiet.

About 15 minutes later, at about 7.40pm, smoke wafted into their room from the master bedroom.

Before they could figure out what happened, they heard frantic knocks on their door. It was their landlord, dressed in only his boxers, screaming: "Come out!"

Mr Johnson, his wife, also 29, and their daughter had just moved into the 12th-storey flat at Block 688A, Choa Chu Kang Drive, earlier that day.

Mr Johnson said: "When my wife called me about the fire, I quickly rushed home. I was working at a store nearby.

"I found my wife and daughter on the ninth storey. I made sure they were safe."

Crying

"My landlord was sitting at the stairs, crying," added Mr Johnson.

"I don't know what happened but my wife said he was quarrelling with his wife over the phone before the fire.

"He was crying and kept apologising. He said he had wanted to kill himself but got scared when the fire grew bigger."

Mr Johnson learnt from his landlord that "the fire got too extreme" and could not be put out.

The man had started the fire by burning bedsheets.

Despite Mr Johnson's probing, the landlord was tight-lipped about his problems.

"I asked him why he wanted to kill himself but he would only say that his wife is a stubborn woman and he would cry again," said Mr Johnson.

He then persuaded the landlord to go to the first storey.

Mr Johnson said the landlord and his wife used to be regular customers at the store where he has been working for about a year.

But he has not seen the wife since the start of the year.

Residents at Block 688A told TNP that signs of unhappiness between the couple started showing a few years ago.

As the fire progressed, residents were hit by the acrid smoke from the burning 12th-storey unit.

Then, they heard sounds of explosions.

Nine-year-old Chloe Tan was so startled by the loud sound that she burst into tears.

Her brother Adrian, 11, said they were watching television at home when they heard people shouting: "Fire! Fire!"

The Primary 5 pupil said: "At first, I thought it was fake. But later I heard explosions and I realised it was a big fire."

The siblings were accompanied downstairs by their parents.

Another resident, who wanted to be known only as Mrs Teo, said she saw the flat's windows fall off shortly after plumes of black smoke came out from the flat.

A Singapore Civil Defence Force spokesman said about 40 residents living on the 12th, 13th and 14th storeys were evacuated from the block.

The fire was put out by a water jet and no one was injured, he added.

Mr Johnson told TNP that his wife and their daughter were a little traumatised by the incident but have since recovered from the shock.

Losses

"We don't know what we have lost. My wife can't find her passport and our clothes are all charred from the fire," said Mr Johnson.

"We were told that we can return to the flat only 48 hours after the fire to see if there's anything left behind that is not destroyed by the fire."

He added that his family is now putting up at a friend's place until they find a new room to rent.

A police spokesman said the landlord has been arrested for mischief by fire and that investigations are ongoing.

This article was first published on August 3, 2015. Get The New Paper for more stories.