Escalator catches fire at Chinatown Point; 200 people evacuated

Above: An unidentified person tried to use a fire extinguisher to put out the fire at the Chinatown Point escalator yesterday. An SCDF spokesman said the fire involved electrical wiring at the third-storey escalator landing, and there were no reporte
The escalator's burnt motor being examined after the area had been cordoned off. The affected escalator last underwent maintenance on Feb 15.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Around 200 shoppers and mall workers were evacuated from Chinatown Point after a fire broke out there and filled it with smoke yesterday.

An escalator on the mall's third storey, near travel agency EU Holidays, caught fire at around 3pm. Nobody was on the escalator at the time, eyewitnesses told The Straits Times.

Customer service supervisor Karen Hau, 34, who was nearby, said she realised something was wrong when she felt heat coming from the escalator. "There was no explosion or loud sound, it just started burning," she said. "Someone started saying that we should move away, so we all did."

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) dispatched two fire engines, two red rhinos and two support vehicles to the scene, and the fire was put out using a water jet. Its spokesman said the fire involved electrical wiring at the third-storey escalator landing. There were no reported injuries, he added.

 An unidentified person tried to use a fire extinguisher to put out the fire at the Chinatown Point escalator yesterday. An SCDF spokesman said the fire involved electrical wiring at the third-storey escalator landing, and there were no reporte

FIRE ALARM COULD NOT BE ACTIVATED

I actually tried to activate the fire alarm by smashing the glass and hitting the button several times, but nothing happened. People headed for the exits automatically when they saw the commotion.

MR ANDY YUAN, a tour guide.

By 3.45pm, business had returned to normal, albeit with some escalators shut down. SCDF officers were seen inspecting the escalator landing with torches. The electrical components underneath the landing were covered in soot.

Eyewitnesses claimed they did not hear any announcements to evacuate and the fire alarms were not activated.

Said tour guide Andy Yuan, 33: "I actually tried to activate the fire alarm by smashing the glass and hitting the button several times, but nothing happened. People headed for the exits automatically when they saw the commotion."

A spokesman for Perennial Real Estate, which manages Chinatown Point, said it is investigating complaints about the fire alarm system. He added that the fire alarm was last tested on Feb 22, and escalators at the mall are serviced monthly. The affected escalator last underwent maintenance on Feb 15.

"The safety of our patrons remains our top priority," he said, adding that escalator firm Schindler will also be asked to assist in the probe.

Escalator fires are not unheard of. In 2012, an escalator at Toa Payoh MRT station emitted smoke. The fire was put out by station staff.

WATCH THE VIDEO
SCDF personnel inspecting the escalator at Chinatown Point. http://str.sg/4ho4

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 06, 2017, with the headline 'Escalator catches fire at Chinatown Point; 200 people evacuated'. Print Edition | Subscribe