SINGAPORE - The new year marked a fresh start for a group of about 20 stallholders who lost their livelihoods after a huge blaze destroyed a Jurong West coffee shop and wet market in October.
On Sunday (Jan 1), 23 of them were able to resume their businesses at a temporary market in front of Block 495, Jurong West Street 41, ahead of Chinese New Year.
The temporary market, which took six weeks to build, was officially opened by Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies Tharman Shanmugaratnam.
"The building of the temporary market shows that when something unfortunate happens, we are able to come together to make things better in the future," said Mr Tharman, who was joined by fellow Jurong GRC MPs Desmond Lee and Ang Wei Neng.
A multi-agency effort was previously launched to help the 51 stallholders who were affected by the fire at Block 493, Jurong West Street 41.
It included job fairs and financial assistance as well as emotional support from grassroots volunteers.
Plans for a new permanent market at Block 493 is on track, with construction to begin in the middle of the year (2017), Mr Ang also announced at the event.
It will take about 1½ years to complete.
The new two-storey complex will house a market (420 sq m), eating house (433 sq m) and facilities for elderly residents, he added.
It will also include wider aisles, better ventilation and an elderly friendly designs, such as non-slip tiles.
About $6.2 million will be needed to build the new market, which will be fully funded by the Government.
A total of 34 out of the 35 stalls available at the temporary market have been taken up by the 23 stallholders, including 70-year-old Wang Chiow Wee.
"I am happy to be back in business so soon. The temporary market is clean and spacious, but I especially miss seeing all the regular costumers who have been supporting me over the years," said Mr Wang, who has been selling meat at the Block 493 wet market for the past 30 years.
He has taken up two stalls at the temporary market and he will pay $900 a month for each stall.
Several donors, temples, clan associations and other organisations raised about $600,000 needed to build the temporary market, which was completed on Dec 15, Mr Ang said.
Factory worker Pay Shaw Ping, 62, who has been living in Jurong West for 17 years said: "I enjoyed visiting the market every weekend with my friends to buy vegetables and fish. After it was burnt down, we had to go to another market further away. I'm glad to have this temporary market, as it is much more convenient."