Tampines fire: Trapped woman screams for help

SAFE: The woman who was trapped in the burning flat was rescued and taken to hospital for smoke inhalation.

She was about to take a bath when she smelled something burning.

Thinking it was the haze, she stepped out of the bathroom to close the windows of the maisonette where she works, but saw that the sky was quite clear.

So she peered downstairs, expecting to see people burning joss paper at the foot of her block.

What the 45-year-old domestic helper heard next shocked her.

"Please help! Please help! It's burning," came the screams.

It was a neighbour, who was shouting and frantically waving from the upper floor of her maisonette as smoke billowed from behind her.

"It was very scary. It looked like a scene from TV. The smoke was thick and black," said the domestic helper, who wanted to be known only as Madam Karen.

"I was so scared I forgot all the emergency numbers I could call.

"So I just shouted to the passers-by downstairs to call the police and ambulance and they told me they had already done so."

The fire happened yesterday on the fourth storey of Block 894, Tampines Street 81, at around 8.20am.

Madam Karen said she ran to the neighbour's door and tried to enter the flat, but both the gate and door were locked. The trapped neighbour then threw her keys out to the corridor.

"By then, a lot of people had come upstairs. My mind was a blank," said Madam Karen, whose employer's daughter, whom she was keeping an eye on, slept through the incident.

She added: "I couldn't open the door because I was shaking, so I asked someone else to do it. He took the keys from me and opened the door.

"They tried entering the flat to save my neighbour, but the smell of the smoke was too strong and they had to back away from the flat."

The trapped woman kept jumping up and down and waving her arms while she called for help.

Madam Karen said: "I gave a man who was in his late 40s a pail for him to take kitchen from my employer's flat to help put out the fire.

"Another man turned off the gas pipe outside my neighbour's flat as a safety precaution."

Mr Alex Tan, 28, a financial analyst, was walking home after breakfast at a nearby coffee shop when he saw the fire.


"It was quite big and it was in the kitchen. Black smoke was pouring out of the unit and wire brackets were falling from the ceiling," said Mr Tan.

"A woman was reaching out her room window, her hand covered in soot."

Mr Tan said two neighbours rushed from their units with pails of water to try putting out the fire. One of them threw a piece of wet cloth to the trapped woman, for her to cover her nose with.

He said: "The neighbours were throwing pails of water to extinguish the fire, but there wasn't any significant difference as the fire was too big.

"The firefighters came soon after and the fire was put out.

"The woman was able to walk out of the unit by herself, her whole body covered in soot. I'm relieved she is safe."

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said it received a call at 8.22am and sent two fire engines, a Red Rhino, two fire bikes, one support vehicle and an ambulance to the scene.

The fire was extinguished in about 8 minutes using one water jet and two compressed air foam backpacks.

An SCDF spokesman said that a woman in her 20s was taken conscious to Changi General Hospital for smoke inhalation.

Investigations are ongoing.

Madam Karen said: "Usually, no one would be at home at that time because the whole family would be out at work.

"Perhaps it was a good thing that someone was at home and shouted for help. Or it could have turned out worse."

This article was first published on October 6, 2015.
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