Jurong stallholders affected by fire not keen on relocating

The gutted shell of the wet market at Block 493, Jurong West Street 41, after it was engulfed in a fire last Tuesday.
The gutted shell of the wet market at Block 493, Jurong West Street 41, after it was engulfed in a fire last Tuesday. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Most of the 51 stallholders who lost their livelihoods when a fire swept through a wet market and two coffee shops in Jurong a week ago say they do not intend to take up an offer of temporary stalls.

Applications opened yesterday for them to relocate to other parts of the island, with the Housing Board (HDB) and the National Environment Agency (NEA) promising them priority without having to go through the bidding process.

This was part of the help offered to them after a blaze engulfed their premises at Block 493 and Block 494 last Tuesday. A 41-year-old man was arrested on Thursday for allegedly starting the fire.

However, most stallholders told The Straits Times they did not intend to take up the offer.

Madam Teo Ai Yoke, 65, who sold bags and slippers at the Block 493 wet market near where she lives, said she would not want to move out of the area as she has a familiar customer base.

Acknowledging that it would take over a year to rebuild the market, she said she would make do by working late-night shifts at a nearby Giant supermarket.

Mr Seow Lai Huat, 56, who sold yong tau foo at the Block 493 wet market, has resumed business in nearby Block 497.

However, he has scaled down as the stall is smaller, selling only noodles, tofu and bean sprouts. He is earning half of what he earned previously. He said: "An old friend has two stalls there. After the fire, he asked me if I wanted to rent part of it, at least for the next six months."

He did not want to move beyond that due to the additional transport costs and the loss of regular customers.

 

Mr Soh Chun Wee, 27, whose family ran a Western food stall at the Block 493 coffee shop, is considering renting a stall at one of the privately-owned coffee shops in Block 496 and Block 498.

He said: "We have a customer base in this area. If we shift, we are not guaranteed a customer base."

He said he is waiting for a HDB report on whether the coffee shop will also have to be demolished and rebuilt, like the wet market.

Mr Ang Wei Neng, an MP for Jurong GRC, said while the HDB's report will be out in a "couple of days", it is likely Block 493 will have to be demolished and rebuilt. Meanwhile, the Block 494 coffee shop is likely to be handed back to the owner in two months' time.

Madam Gunasekaran Nalayeni, 37, who sold Indian-Muslim food at the Block 494 coffee shop, said she would study the proposed locations before making her decision.

"I know some of these places don't have much business," she said, adding that she wanted to return to the Jurong West Street 41 location eventually.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 18, 2016, with the headline 'Jurong stallholders affected by fire not keen on relocating'. Print Edition | Subscribe