A maid helped rush an 86-year-old neighbour to safety when the latter's third-storey Yishun flat caught fire yesterday morning.
The maid's employer, who wanted to be unnamed, told Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao that she also alerted their neighbours on the same level to evacuate.
"She told me that the elderly woman had left the unit at first, but she later returned and locked herself in. My helper rushed back and banged on her door, asking her to leave quickly, before she finally opened her door and came downstairs," said the employer.
The elderly woman's daughter, Madam Papathi, 68, told Wanbao that her mother suffers from dementia and was alone at home when the fire broke out.
The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said it was alerted to the fire in the third-, fourth- and fifth-storey units at Block 141 Yishun Ring Road at around 8.30am yesterday.
The fire was confined within the master bedrooms, with smoke damage sustained throughout the three units.
Firemen extinguished the fire using three water jets, with an additional water jet at the height of the firefighting operation.
Five off-duty SCDF personnel in the vicinity also rendered assistance with medical and firefighting operations.
Ten people, including a police officer, were taken to Singapore General Hospital for smoke inhalation. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
The fire prompted about 100 residents from the second to the 10th storey of the affected block to self-evacuate before the SCDF arrived.
A polytechnic student, who wanted to be known only as Miss Soh, told The New Paper: "When our neighbour banged on our door and told us to evacuate, we could not see anything but black smoke in the corridor."
Her family, who live on the third storey, had to walk through the thick smoke to get to the staircase. Miss Soh and her sister were later taken to hospital and were discharged in the afternoon after check-ups.
The 19-year-old said she was shocked by the huge fire but was relieved to find that their elderly neighbour unhurt when they met her at the hospital.
A retiree in her 60s, who wanted to be known only as Madam Fong and who lives directly above the affected units on the sixth storey, told TNP she was "scared to death" when she saw the smoke and flames.
"I immediately notified my neighbours, and we rushed downstairs together without taking any personal belongings," she said.
Despite the fire not reaching her unit, the walls and ceilings of her master bedroom were charred, and her air-conditioning unit was damaged.
Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam, an MP for Nee Soon GRC, visited the scene around noon.
He also visited the affected residents taking shelter at the Chong Pang Community Club across the street.
Commending the swift action of the SCDF officers who brought the fire under control within 10 minutes, Mr Shanmugam reminded residents to stay vigilant.
He said: "We have an ageing population and fire accidents, I think we need to be careful about that. We are lucky that there were no fatalities... we will do everything we can to help people."
He said the affected residents have been offered temporary housing by the Housing Board.
This article was first published in The New Paper. Permission required for reproduction.