Visually impaired man died in Marine Crescent fire

SINGAPORE - She was at work on Saturday morning when her teenage daughter, who was on her way to school, called her.

Madam Faridah Sharif, 52, a clinic assistant, could hear the panic in her daughter Farhana's voice.

"She told me that there was a fire in our block," Madam Faridah recalled.

Worried about her sick brother and elderly father, who were at home on the eighth storey of Block 27 Marine Crescent, she quickly left the clinic a few blocks away to check on them.

The men were fine, but Madam Faridah was shocked to see fire raging from a unit on the 10th storey. She said: "The woman who lives there, Florence, is my friend. So I called her at once."

Florence, who was out at the time, answered the phone and it was clear that she wasn't aware of the fire.

Madam Faridah asked her if anyone was home.

Florence, who is in her 60s, replied in a flustered tone: "Oh my God, yes! My husband is inside. I'm rushing back now."

That was the last time Madam Faridah spoke to her friend.

Florence's husband, who is visually impaired, died in the fire in the fiveroom flat.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) spokesman said that it was alerted at 9.30am.

He said: "Forced entry into the unit was carried out by SCDF. The fire in the unit was raging, and involved the contents of the living room and two bedrooms. (The) unit was also heavily smoke-logged."

The fire was extinguished within 45 minutes. The cause is under investigation.

Madam Faridah said she found out only hours after the fire had been extinguished that Florence's husband had died. She has not called her friend as she does not want to disturb the family, who must be grieving.

She said her neighbour lost his eyesight only in recent years.

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who is a Member of Parliament for Marine Parade GRC,wrote on Facebook that he had visited the block. He was at the scene around noon with other grassroots leaders to assist residents affected by the fire.

He said: "(I have) also instructed HDB, Town Council, RC and PAP Branch secretaries to render assistance and help the family cope with their grief."

When The New Paper on Sunday visited the flat yesterday evening, the aftermath of the fire was clearly visible.

The flat was completely blackened.

The acrid smell was still present.

Retiree Gary Lim, 64, had just returned home after sending his wife to work in the morning when he spotted the fire.

It suddenly occurred to Mr Lim that both his sons, 18 and 21, were sleeping at home on the 25th storey of the same block. He quickly called them.

"At first, I told them to stay put because I felt it was safer. Several minutes later, they called to tell me that the smoke had got into our home and they couldn't breathe properly," he said.

Just as Mr Lim was asking his sons to get out of the flat, the police came and told them to leave.

"But it was quite tough for them to make their way down the only staircase in the block. There were many people and it did not help that the smoke was getting to them too."

Mrs Jenny Robson, 72, a retiree was with her grandchildren, aged two and eight, at their home on the 19th storey.

She said: "The kids and I had great difficulty breathing. Even when we used wet towels, it didn't work. We were just coughing away."

"There were many people on the 25th storey and the smoke was still present. We took the stairs down instead.

"Luckily, our neighbours were very nice and offered us masks to help us with breathing."

She said that another neighbour on the 21st storey invited them into her flat because there wasn't much smoke in her home.

"I'm very grateful to have great neighbours," she said.

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