A group of workers had a narrow escape after fire tore through a three-storey furniture warehouse at 65 Sungei Kadut Loop yesterday morning. Seven people found trapped on the premises had to be rescued before the metal roof of the building collapsed.
Delivery driver Aung Aung, 40, was asleep on the third storey of the warehouse when he thought he heard thunder, as it was raining.
But the Myanmar national soon discovered that his workplace was engulfed in flames.
The building, which measures 100m by 50m and includes an adjoining office block, is leased by furniture dealer Winter International Group.
"I smelled smoke and then, the fire alarm rang. I was scared and I ran to the corridor to hide," said Mr Aung, who was gasping for air at a balcony before help arrived.
Still in his pyjamas and reeling from the shock, he said: "I was so scared I wanted to jump (from the balcony)."
The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said in a Facebook post that it was alerted to the fire at about 5am and found three people trapped on the rooftop and four on a third-storey balcony.
None of them was hurt and the fire's cause is being investigated.
The blaze was extinguished at about 8am but firefighters were still dousingpockets of fire when The Straits Times arrived at the scene about 30 minutes later.
Damping-down operations continued for a few more hours to prevent the fire from rekindling, said SCDF.
Commander of the 4th SCDF Division Michael Chua told reporters there that 80 firefighters were involved at the height of the fire. A total of 19 SCDF vehicles, including two unmanned firefighting machines, were used.
Assessing the damage, he said: "During the fire, the roof of the building collapsed. The warehouse containing furniture was completely burnt and the second-floor office unit was slightly damaged. The third floor was damaged by soot."
Mr Aung, who has been working for the company for 10 years, said he and five other drivers had knocked off work at about 9pm on Tuesday, but it was too late for them to return to their dormitories.
Another delivery driver, a Chinese national who wanted to be known only as Mr Zhang, said the building was filled with thick smoke. The 40-year-old said: "I took a hand towel, wet it with rain water and covered my mouth. I was choking."
His wife, who was visiting him in Singapore and had arrived on Tuesday night, was also with him.
A Ministry of Manpower spokesman said that industrial premises are allowed to house workers if they obtain the necessary approvals from the relevant government agencies. The agencies are investigating the case.
Yesterday, a company representative at the scene declined comment.
In the interest of public safety, the Building and Construction Authority has directed the building owner to engage a professional engineer to carry out a detailed investigation and recommend permanent rectification works. A BCA spokesman said the building will be closed until these are completed.