Collapse of ceiling: Jem closure worries shoppers

A Jem employee giving directions to a tenant yesterday morning. Experts estimate that the Jurong East shopping centre will remain shut for a week at most. Just after 10pm on Wednesday, a 50m by 4m portion of false ceiling collapsed due to a burst wat
A Jem employee giving directions to a tenant yesterday morning. Experts estimate that the Jurong East shopping centre will remain shut for a week at most. Just after 10pm on Wednesday, a 50m by 4m portion of false ceiling collapsed due to a burst water pipe. -- ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Jem mall remained closed yesterday following the ceiling collapse, as shoppers wondered: Is the building safe?

The Jurong East shopping centre is likely to be shut for a week at most in the wake of Wednesday's accident, experts estimate.

Meanwhile, MP Ang Wei Neng said constituents were worried about potential hazards at Jem - which has already suffered two fires and had its opening delayed due to a lack of safety permits.

"I am concerned that there was some rush to open the mall," he said. "They may have taken some short cuts."

Shopper Manu Raji, 65, said: "I am scared to go into the mall. How can the roof collapse? I will avoid it."

The accident happened just after 10pm, when a 50m by 4m portion of false ceiling collapsed due to a burst water pipe. Three people suffered minor injuries including bruises.

Jem said the centre would "remain closed until such time that the safety checks and tests and all rectification works are completed". Consultants are checking the six-storey mall's water pipes for any other signs of leaks, and repair work to water-damaged lifts and escalators has begun.

The precautions were put in place after the Building and Construction Authority ordered the mall to close off the area and get an engineer to check all false ceilings and investigate the accident.

Yesterday, the authority released a statement confirming that a leaking pipe was to blame. It said water had collected on the false ceiling, causing the collapse. However, the centre's "structural integrity" remained intact.

Building contractors told The Straits Times that burst pipes can take up to a week to fix. When reporters visited the 241-store mall yesterday morning, there were barriers along its perimeter and closure notices were placed on doorways. Staff were seen carting perishables away to other outlets.

Mr Jason Tai, an assistant manager at a SingTel store, did not realise Jem was closed until he arrived for work at 9.30am.

"This mall has such bad luck," said the 32-year-old. "Two fires and now the ceiling drops. It will definitely affect our business."

The mall, which opened on June 15, has had its share of misfortunes. First, its opening was delayed for four days due to a lack of fire permits. Last month, three employees were hurt when a deep fryer in the FairPrice Xtra store burst into flames. Three days later, shoppers were evacuated when a car caught fire in the basement.

Mr Ang, an MP for Jurong GRC, called the latest accident "a sombre reminder that safety cannot be compromised for revenue".

limjess@sph.com.sg

Additional reporting by Maryam Mokhtar

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