Fire at Jurong market forces 300 to evacuate

The charred remains of the coffee shop and wet market at Block 493, Jurong West Street 41, after the blaze was put out yesterday morning. A coffee shop at Block 494 was also damaged. Residents from the surrounding blocks were evacuated at the height
The charred remains of the coffee shop and wet market at Block 493, Jurong West Street 41, after the blaze was put out yesterday morning. A coffee shop at Block 494 was also damaged. Residents from the surrounding blocks were evacuated at the height of the fire, but allowed to return later.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Mr Ben Wong, 53, woke up around 2am yesterday to shouts and the clanking of metal as firemen connected their hoses to hydrants.

A huge blaze had engulfed a coffee shop and wet market at Block 493, Jurong West Street 41, forcing about 300 residents from the surrounding blocks to be evacuated.

Another coffee shop at Block 494 was severely damaged, in one of the worst fires in recent years in terms of residents evacuated.

Witnesses said they heard as many as three explosions and that the fire rose up to two storeys high.

The coffee shop and wet market at Block 493 were left entirely blackened with soot and ash. Only skeletal stall fronts remained.

Mr Wong, who works in manufacturing and lives on the second floor of Block 494 with his wife, said: "When I opened my main door to see what was going on, there was very thick smoke."

The Singapore Civil Defence Force said on Facebook that it was alerted to the "raging fire" at about 2.45am, and dispatched three fire engines, four red rhinos, seven support vehicles and four ambulances. Officers deployed six water jets and an aerial monitor, and the fire was put out by 4.15am. Its cause is being investigated. A woman in her 60s was taken to Ng Teng Fong General Hospital for breathing difficulties. No other casualties were reported.

The Building and Construction Authority said the structure of Block 493 remains stable, although the roof of the wet market had partially collapsed. The structural integrity of Block 494 and its upper floors has not been affected, it added, although the fire damaged the first-storey coffee shop and part of the timber roof structure, and part of the adjacent covered linkways.

Residents were gradually allowed to return to their homes.

Container driver Teo Cheng Kai, 60, who lives on the third storey of Block 494 with his wife, had left his kitchen and living room windows open. "When we were allowed to return home at around 8am, the entire house was dusty, as the smoke had come in."

Retiree Tan Cheng Koy, 70, who lives with his wife and four children on the second floor of Block 494, was allowed to return home only at around 10am. "The floor is still hot now. And the small window in my bedroom was shattered from the heat of the flames," he said.

Jurong GRC MP Ang Wei Neng said that the 36 affected stall owners in the wet market are being helped to set up stalls at an alternative site nearby.

This could be a basketball court at Block 498, he added.

•Additional reporting by Lee Min Kok

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2016, with the headline 'Fire at Jurong market forces 300 to evacuate'. Print Edition | Subscribe