Jurong West blaze

Jurong market fire: Stallholders gripped by uncertainty

Left: Hoardings have gone up around Block 493 as police investigate the fire. Above: Residents spent hours cleaning up the ash.
Hoardings have gone up around Block 493 as police investigate the fire.ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA
Left: Hoardings have gone up around Block 493 as police investigate the fire. Above: Residents spent hours cleaning up the ash.
Residents spent hours cleaning up the ash.ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA
The roof of the wet market collapsed partially under the heat of the blaze, while the wall of Block 494 was blackened. However, BCA has said that the structural integrity of the block was not affected.
The roof of the wet market collapsed partially under the heat of the blaze, while the wall of Block 494 was blackened. However, BCA has said that the structural integrity of the block was not affected.ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

Hawkers frustrated as they are locked out of site, left in the dark

The flames that engulfed a wet market and two coffee shops in Jurong West Street 41 may have been extinguished, but they have given way to a cloud of uncertainty.

A day after a massive blaze ripped through Block 493 and part of Block 494, over 40 stallholders were yesterday pondering their next steps while residents cleaned up. They have lost their livelihoods which range from hundreds to thousands of dollars a day.

Hoardings were set up around the site on Tuesday night on the direction of the Building and Construction Authority.

When The Straits Times visited yesterday afternoon, HDB officers and contractors were working behind the cordon, while police officers investigated the fire's cause.

A 70-year-old porridge seller at the Block 494 coffee shop, who wanted to be known only as Mr Teo, said stallholders have been left in the dark about the situation.

 
 

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We just want them to be more assertive. They should tell us how long we have to wait... We are now just groping for answers.

STALLHOLDER MR TEO

"We understand that they (the coffee shop owner and the authorities) too have their constraints, but we just want them to be more assertive. They should tell us how long we have to wait. Do we wait five days, two weeks, 10 months? We are now just groping for answers."

Mr Lim Kim Chal, 35, who owns a seafood stall at the same coffee shop, said he had not been warned about the hoardings, and was given only 15 minutes to salvage his belongings.

"My five staff, who are Malaysian, are getting ready to go back," he said. "I don't want to pay the monthly levy for their work permits if I'm not sure when I can restart business."

Both Mr Teo and Mr Lim have insurance coverage as part of their rental contracts but they are not sure of the terms and are waiting to hear from coffee shop owner Derek Tan.

Mr Tan had said on Tuesday that he would be contacting the insurance company.

However, not all stallholders are insured.

Mrs Amphorn Woon, 48, who sells Thai food at the coffee shop in Block 493, lost about $10,000 worth of equipment and ingredients in the fire - on top of her daily income - and hopes the authorities can help her.

Miss Lai Long Mei, 43, who sells soya bean milk and soya bean curd in the wet market at Block 493, said she usually makes over $300 a day.

Mr David Chang, 24, who owns a roast duck stall at the Block 494 coffee shop, earns about $1,200 on weekdays, and almost $2,000 on weekends.

Residents from units in Block 494 were also affected.

Retiree Huang Ka Hoi, 63, who lives on the second floor with her husband and four children, said her family spent close to six hours cleaning up yesterday, but their house was still dirty.

"We cleaned everywhere, from the bedroom to the kitchen. But when the wind blows, ash will fly and then everything will get dirty again," she said.

The Straits Times understands that a meeting will be held at 7pm tonight at Jurong Green Community Club between the affected stallholders and MP Ang Wei Neng.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 13, 2016, with the headline 'Stallholders gripped by uncertainty'. Print Edition | Subscribe