Tanoto Shipyard Fire: Three men still missing

THREE men were still missing in the waters off Jurong yesterday, after a blaze destroyed four tugboats the previous night.

Rescuers in three craft fanned out to look for the three foreigners, who are believed to have been on the tugboats at Tanoto Shipyard in Jurong.

They are from the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, which is coordinating the search and rescue mission, and the Police Coast Guard.

Meanwhile, the tugboats lie in ruin. Surveying the scene from a boat off the shoreline yesterday, The Straits Times saw the charred remains of part of three vessels, as the rest had sunk under water.

The fourth tugboat vanished under water on Tuesday night, soon after the fire broke out at about 9pm.

Firefighters took around seven hours to put out the inferno, whose cause is not known. It had started on one tug boat and spread swiftly to the other three which were also in the ship repair yard in Jalan Samulun.

Four foreign crew members were injured in the fire, two of whom are in critical condition at Singapore General Hospital (SGH). One suffered 30 per cent burns to his body and the other, 40 per cent burns to the body, said an SGH spokesman. Both are unconscious and on ventilator support.

Of the other two, one has burns and the other, a suspected fractured finger and cuts. They were warded at the National University Hospital.

Three of the injured crewmen were in a vessel that was passing near the fire.

They were ferried by a Police Coast Guard craft to the Police Coast Guard Gul Base nearby, and then taken to hospital by the Singapore Civil Defence Force.

The National Environment Agency, whose officers were checking for pollution in the area yesterday, said that except for isolated patches of light oil sheen, the waters were clear. Tanoto Shipyard had cleared the oil.

Driver Rajaraman Suresh, who works at a nearby shipyard, said he heard an explosion at about 8.40pm on Tuesday.

"It was scary. The ground shook and we were all told to leave. I could see thick, black smoke, and there was a strong burning smell," the 30-year-old said.

jalmsab@sph.com.sg

Additional reporting by Eugene Chua