This article was first published in The New Paper on Jan 9, 2016
SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER) - His neighbours are used to the sight of steam coming out of his kitchen windows and the smell of boiled peanuts filling the air at their Chai Chee Street block.
But on Friday (Jan 8) morning, they were shocked when a fire broke out in Mr Tan Seah Liang's 11th-storey unit at Block 45.
The 63-year-old cabby, who was out at the time, rushed home to find the living room of his three-room flat reduced to a burnt mess, with soot covering the other rooms.
He told The New Paper that he had been heating up a steamboat pot of leftovers on the dining table and had forgotten to turn it off when he left home for his shift at 7am.
He realised his mistake only at around 10pm when a neighbour called to say his flat was on fire.
No one was home as Mr Tan's wife, a housewife, had left home before him.
When TNP entered the flat at 11am after the blaze, we saw a sack of peanuts leaning against a wall in the living room. There were also peanuts strewn all over the room.
At least three gas cylinders were seen in the soot-covered kitchen. It also contained large containers and what looked like industrial kitchen equipment.
No one injured
The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) was alerted to the fire at 9.37am. SCDF officers forced their way into the flat and extinguished the fire with one water jet.
No injuries were reported.
Mr Tan's neighbour on the same floor, Madam Amanah Ali, 64, said she got a fright when she heard an explosion at about 9am.
When Madam Amanah opened her front door, she did not see anything amiss.
The retiree said: "Then I smelled burning rubber so I rushed into my bedroom to check my (electrical) plugs and again. I didn't notice anything."
The smell got stronger and soon, another neighbour knocked on Madam Amanah's door to get her to evacuate. By then, smoke had filled the corridor.
Madam Amanah said: "The smoke was so black and thick, I could hardly see past it. I quickly asked my neighbour if anyone had called the SCDF. Just as I asked her, I noticed SCDF personnel trying to force their way into the flat."
When asked about the peanuts, she said: "I don't know the owner very well, but I do know that he boils peanuts. I smell boiled peanuts every day. Every morning he leaves home with the bags of peanuts for sale."
Mr Tan, however, denied this.
"I have all these peanuts in my house because I like eating peanuts.
"I eat peanuts every day so I thought why not just buy one sack from a factory for my own consumption?" he said.
Another neighbour, who lives in the unit directly above the burnt flat, said: "It is a norm for me to see some steam outside my window coming up from Mr Tan's flat because he boils peanuts every morning and the smell fills my flat."
The neighbour, who wanted to be known only as Ms Tan, said she was at work when the fire broke out.
She rushed home after her husband called her about the fire. She saw cracks on the floor of her flat and on the wall next to her front door.
When TNP visited her, she was cleaning her flat. The cloth she had used to wipe her table tops had turned a dark grey from the soot.
She said: "When I took my shoes off, I jumped when my bare feet touched the floor because it was burning hot."
Mr Tan has lived in the flat for over 30 years and will most likely move into his brother's flat.
"I just renewed my insurance on Oct 20. At least I have one less thing to be worried about since the cost of the damage will be taken care off.
"I am also thankful that the gas cylinders in the kitchen didn't explode."
But he is concerned about the coming festive season.
"Chinese New Year is coming soon. How are my relatives going to come to my flat for visiting?"