First, a loud bang shattered the normal solitude of Sunset Place, a private residential area in Clementi. Then a two-storey bungalow was in flames.
Yesterday's dramatic fire, which neighbours suspect was caused by a lightning strike, did not leave anyone hurt, but left the inside of the house badly charred. The roof was also destroyed.
Dr Peter Tan, an 80-year-old retired surgeon, and his wife have been living there for more than 40 years.
He spoke briefly to The Straits Times as he left the house with a painting and a black luggage bag, which he said was full of important documents such as passports.
He explained he was not home when the house caught fire about 5.30pm, but was left shocked by what happened.
Neighbours said his wife and maid were in the house, and seemingly unaware of the fire when it started. Lawyer P. Jeya Putra, who lives in the area, said neighbours had tried calling out to them from outside the gates, but failed to get their attention.
Neighbours said (Dr Tan's) wife and maid were in the house, and seemingly unaware of the fire when it started. Lawyer P. Jeya Putra, who lives in the area, said neighbours had tried calling out to them from outside the gates, but failed to get their attention.
Foreign workers who were working at another house nearby then climbed over the gate to alert the occupants, added the 53-year-old, who has been living in Sunset Place for some nine years.
Another resident, who declined to be named, said the place was prone to lightning strikes. He pointed out a white rod atop the burnt house, describing it as a lightning rod. He added that his own home had been struck in 1992 and last year, leaving household appliances, such as a cordless phone, short-circuited.
The Singapore Civil Defence Force was alerted to the fire at 9, Sunset Place around 5.30pm. Two fire engines and a Red Rhino were among the vehicles sent to the scene.
When they arrived eight minutes later, the fire had engulfed the second storey, with flames shooting through the roof.
It took 20 minutes to bring the fire under control with three water jets. At 10pm, firefighters were still dousing the house with water.
When The Straits Times arrived at the scene at about 9pm, police had set up a cordon around the house, and there was a lingering smell of smoke.
A Building and Construction Authority officer was there as well. Mr Jeya added that the area's MP, Ms Sim Ann, had also visited the scene.
A 36-year-old maid, Ms Evelyn Altuna, who works in a neighbouring house, said she first heard a loud bang. "My employer's son saw the smoke and asked me to take a look," she said. "After the fire started, the electricity in our house was cut."
Mr Alfred Chia, chief executive of financial advisory firm SingCapital, said damage caused by fires, including from lightning, is usually covered under general fire insurance.
Enhanced coverage would include damage to things in the house. " But if you have no fire insurance, you have to foot the cost of the damage, including damage to your neighbours' homes," said Mr Chia.
•Additional reporting by Yeo Sam Jo and Charmaine Ng