Two dead as fire destroys house in Yio Chu Kang

He could only watch helplessly as a raging fire swallowed his house in the middle of the night, claiming the life of his mother and that of a friend.

In just two hours, all that was left of businessman Alvin Tang Hui Jen's Parry Avenue home near Yio Chu Kang Road - a two-storey semi-detached house where his four-generation family lived - were charred, skeletal walls.

Screams, crackling sounds and even explosions drew neighbours out of their homes from around 3am. Housewife Brenda Tham, 57, said a neighbour tried to climb into the burning house and pull an older man towards the gate, which failed to open.

"The old man told him to save the children," she recalled. "Then there was an explosion. I'm not sure how he got out."

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and police were alerted at about 3am yesterday to the blaze, which left two dead and six others injured, including a firefighter. The SCDF arrived to find the house engulfed by flames that had shot through the roof.

It took six water jets and more than an hour to contain and put out the fire, which ravaged the property. None of the adjacent houses was badly affected.

Six occupants from the razed property managed to evacuate before SCDF's arrival, and first responders helped two other occupants - one of them an elderly man - out of the burning house.

But two bodies were later found on the second floor.

The Straits Times understands that one of them was Mr Tang's elderly mother, and the other, his business partner.

Five others - two elderly men, one child and two women - were taken conscious to Singapore General Hospital for smoke inhalation. A firefighter was also taken to Tan Tock Seng Hospital for heat exhaustion.

SCDF and police are investigating the incident, including what caused the fire.

Mr Tang, who was one of the six survivors, was seen sitting quietly outside his destroyed home as SCDF and police officers worked to retrieve the bodies among the charred debris.

Mr Tang, along with friends and relatives who gathered yesterday for a ritual outside the house led by two Buddhist monks, declined to speak to reporters.

Logistics officer Joanne Lim, 60, and her husband, who live directly behind the house, tried to help put out the flames with buckets of water. "It was the biggest fire I've ever seen," she said. "I was so scared that the wall separating our homes would collapse, and the fire would reach my kitchen gas pipes and explode."

Full-time volunteer Jane Tan, 58, saw one of the family's children, a boy of about 10, standing in the street with bloodstained clothes. She said: "His elbow was bleeding. I offered to put medication on the wound."

She has opened her house to the family and their relatives so they can rest. "I couldn't watch them stand on the road all day."

hpeishan@sph.com.sg

oliviaho@sph.com.sg