Search-and-rescue mission for one missing person after bumboat catches fire on Singapore River near Esplanade

VIDEO: ST READER
SCDF personnel inspecting the charred remains of the bumboat that caught fire, on July 12, 2016.
SCDF personnel inspecting the charred remains of the bumboat that caught fire, on July 12, 2016.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Search and rescue operations being carried out by SCDF personnel for a missing person, after a bumboat caught fire on the Singapore River, on July 12, 2016.
Search and rescue operations being carried out by SCDF personnel for a missing person, after a bumboat caught fire on the Singapore River, on July 12, 2016.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Firemen put out the fire on a boat next to the Esplanade
Firemen put out the fire on a boat next to the Esplanade ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Firemen put out the fire on a boat next to the Esplanade
Firemen put out the fire on a boat next to the EsplanadeST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Dark smoke bellows near the Esplanade as seen from the National Library
Dark smoke bellows near the Esplanade as seen from the National Library ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Plumes of smoke rising from the boat on the Singapore River on July 12, 2016.
Plumes of smoke rising from the boat on the Singapore River on July 12, 2016.PHOTO: LIM WUI LIANG / FACEBOOK
Flames and smoke rising from a bumboat that caught fire in the Singapore River, near the Esplanade, on July 12, 2016.
Flames and smoke rising from a bumboat that caught fire in the Singapore River, near the Esplanade, on July 12, 2016.PHOTO: RUTH RODRIGUES
Smoke rising from a fire on a bumboat in the Singapore River, on July 12, 2016.
Smoke rising from a fire on a bumboat in the Singapore River, on July 12, 2016.PHOTO: LYNN PHAM

SINGAPORE - A search operation has commenced for a missing person after a bumboat cruising on the Singapore River near the Esplanade caught fire on Tuesday (July 12) afternoon.

In eyewitness videos posted on Facebook, massive plumes of smoke can be seen rising from the boat as a large crowd looked on from the surrounding walkways.

Luke, an 18-year-old IT student who was shooting a time-lapse video of the Merlion at the time, told The Straits Times that he saw a middle-aged man clad in yellow jump into the water from the rear of the boat, before hearing three to four "soft blasts".

A video sent in by ST reader Ivan Seah showed a man escaping as flames consumed the front of the craft.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said in a Facebook post at 8.12pm that it extinguished the fire using two water jets. Its divers have commenced a search operation for a missing person, believed to be the boat operator.

There were no other reported missing persons or injuries, SCDF said.

In a subsequent post, SCDF said its elite DART rescuers are facing the challenge of poor underwater visibility at night. Besides point diving at a depth of about 4m, it added that the team is moving in a grid formation and employing a circular search pattern from the point where the missing person was last seen.

After the fire was put out, smaller tug boats were spotted taking the charred boat near the steps of the Esplanade theatre.

The owner of a nearby food stall said that he had not heard any shouting or screaming during the incident.

Marketing professional Lim Wui Liang, 36, said: "I'm on the 44th floor of Suntec Tower 1. I was about to leave work at 6.25pm, when I saw this huge plume of smoke.

"I knew something was burning and I moved to another window to get a better look."