Jurong market fire: Stallholders to get help finding jobs

Jurong GRC MP Ang Wei Neng (in green) speaking to stall owners and workers at Block 493, Jurong West Street 41 yesterday. The vendors and workers took turns to view the site, which had been boarded up after the fire on Tuesday razed the market. Mr An
Jurong GRC MP Ang Wei Neng (in green) speaking to stall owners and workers at Block 493, Jurong West Street 41 yesterday. The vendors and workers took turns to view the site, which had been boarded up after the fire on Tuesday razed the market. Mr Ang said he hoped being allowed into the site would give them closure.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Grassroots leaders will also act as mentors to understand their needs; MP arranges job fair at community club

Stallholders affected by the market blaze in Jurong West Street 41 will get help in finding jobs and a mentor to understand their needs.

Yesterday, they were also allowed into the site - the first time since the fire broke out six days ago - to have a look at the charred remains of the market at Block 493.

A massive fire ripped through Block 493 and part of Block 494 on Tuesday morning, destroying the livelihoods of workers at 51 stalls.

Jurong GRC MP Ang Wei Neng said he has arranged a job fair at Jurong Green Community Club next Thursday which will focus on offering jobs in the food and beverage sector, including kitchen work.

He has also started a mentorship scheme in which a grassroots leader will be attached to four or five stallholders to hear their needs and see how they can be helped.

When asked how stalls which had lost equipment and were not insured would be helped, the MP said he did not want to go into details as there were "too many variations".

However, he added that help for those who do not have savings - in particular, those with young children - was under consideration.

A fraction of stallholders have expressed interest in an assistance measure that would help them take up another stall elsewhere, he said. They can sign up for it from today.

Rebuilding the market will take at least a year. Demolition would likely start by the end of the week.

Yesterday, the mood was muted as stall owners and workers viewed the market from its perimeter. Hoardings had previously shielded the site from view. There were seven groups of six to eight people who entered under supervision for about 15 minutes each.

Mr Ang said it was dangerous for stall owners to enter the market to retrieve items, but added that he hoped that being allowed into the site would give them closure.

When The Straits Times visited, the market was a tangled mess of twisted metal. The roof had caved in and the main columns supporting it were slanted and cracked.

A 41-year-old man, Lim Ying Siang, was charged in court on Saturday for allegedly causing the fire. Shin Min Daily News reported yesterday that the father of the suspect apologised to affected vendors, saying he did not raise his son well.

For now, the response to the help schemes is tepid. Vendors ST spoke to said what they want is for the market to reopen as soon as possible.

Mr Kong Teck Seng, 54, a fishmonger, was sceptical that employers would want to hire him as he cannot read English and may not have the skills to be a waiter or chef. However, he was open to being hired if they can use his skills as a fishmonger.

Mr Ng Ser Hai, 64, who ran an economical bee hoon stall, said he did not want to work for another business as he has been his own boss for 12 years. He hopes to be given priority in being assigned a stall at a newly built hawker centre of his choice.

Mr Lee Ah Kia, 71, who rented a carrot cake stall, said the job fair would help him if it could place him as a carrot cake cook for a food outlet earning over $3,000 a month. However, he added: "I'm so old already, I think people won't want me."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2016, with the headline 'Jurong market fire: Stallholders to get help finding jobs'. Print Edition | Subscribe