A 41-year-old man has been arrested for suspected involvement in the fire that destroyed a wet market and two coffee shops in Jurong in the wee hours of Tuesday.
Police were alerted at 2.42am to the fire, which left stallholders without their livelihoods, ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars a day. Some only had 15 minutes to salvage belongings before hoardings were put up at the site later that night.
Police said yesterday that they arrested the suspect in Jurong West Street 41 on Thursday.
"Police have zero tolerance for such lawless acts and will ensure that perpetrators are dealt with to the fullest extent of the law," said the commander of the Jurong division, Assistant Commissioner of Police Koh Wei Keong.
On Thursday, a multi-agency effort was launched to help the 51 stallholders who were affected.
The Housing Board and the National Environment Agency (NEA) provided stallholders from Blocks 493 and 494 in Jurong West Street 41 with a list of market stalls and food stalls available in Clementi and Ghim Moh. The Ministry of Social and Family Development is also providing help.
Yesterday, Jurong GRC MP Ang Wei Neng expressed sadness that the cause of the fire may have been arson. "This deplorable act had affected the livelihood of more than 50 stallholders and their workers. Many were almost in tears when I met them (on Thursday) night," he said on his Facebook page.
HDB began propping up the structure at Block 493 yesterday, so stallholders can go in and retrieve their belongings, which they can do once the site is certified safe. HDB and NEA are also disinfecting the site daily, treating it against mosquitoes and clearing away debris.
When contacted by The Straits Times, Mr Ang said he was focusing his efforts on helping stallholders. "The most important thing is to work with the HDB to rebuild the market as soon as possible, so that we can return to normalcy."
Stallholders hope that this will happen soon. Miss Lai Long Mei, 43, who sold soya bean milk at the market, said: "Even if we knew who he was and if he were jailed, what does it matter? It doesn't solve our problems." She does not plan to move her stall to the available spots suggested by the authorities, citing low footfall. "We hope to find a space near the market and continue our business there, as our old customers are all in the area."
Mr David Chang, 24, who owns a roast duck stall at the Block 494 coffee shop, said he is biding his time for now. He hopes that investigations can be completed soon and that he can continue his business at the same place. "If we invest anew elsewhere, we have to start from scratch again. Now, we are just waiting. I may have to find another job in the meantime," he said.