Fire at 313@somerset: Mall on Orchard Road open for business again

ST VIDEO: MELISSA LIN
ST VIDEO: CAROLINE CHIA
Police standing at the entrance of 313@Somerset following a fire that broke out on Dec 15, 2016.
Police standing at the entrance of 313@Somerset following a fire that broke out on Dec 15, 2016. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
A Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) fire truck outside 313@Somerset following a fire that broke out on Dec 15, 2016.
A Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) fire truck outside 313@Somerset following a fire that broke out on Dec 15, 2016.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
A mall staff member speaking to members of the public after a fire that broke out at 313@somerset on Dec 15, 2016.
A mall staff member speaking to members of the public after a fire that broke out at 313@somerset on Dec 15, 2016. ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA
A mall staff member speaking to members of the public after a fire that broke out at 313@somerset on Dec 15, 2016.
A mall staff member speaking to members of the public after a fire that broke out at 313@somerset on Dec 15, 2016. ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA
The 313@somerset shopping mall at Orchard Road will remain closed until noon on Friday (Dec 16), following a fire that broke out the night before.
The 313@somerset shopping mall at Orchard Road will remain closed until noon on Friday (Dec 16), following a fire that broke out the night before. ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

SINGAPORE - The 313@somerset shopping mall at Orchard Road opened for business again at 1.30pm on Friday (Dec 16), following a fire that broke out the night before.

General manager of 313@somerset Cheryl Goh said in a media statement on Friday afternoon: "We are working closely with the authorities to investigate the cause of the incident. We are thankful of the support and patience of our retailers and shoppers and would like to apologise for the inconvenience caused."

The earlier part of the day had been spent on testing, cleanup and rectification works.

Many retail employees had turned up for work before 10am - the mall's official opening time - to find that the shutters were down and entrances barricaded.

An employee from clothing store Mango, who wanted to be known only as Ms Neba, found out the mall was temporarily closed only when she arrived for work at 9.55am.

"I don't know what time it'll be reopened. Now they (the security guards) are saying it's closed for cleaning or something," said the 54-year-old.

 

Around 10.10am, the guards told the workers who were waiting around, that the mall was likely to open only after 12pm. Some left, while others said that they were "going to drink coffee". Ms Neba and three of her colleagues were later redeployed to work at Mango's outlet in Ion Orchard.

Marche and Costa Coffee on the ground floor remained open.

Resource manager Christina Hoberger, 45, was planning to have breakfast in the mall with her two sons, aged seven and 10, and was "completely surprised" to find that the entrances into the mall were blocked.

"I tried to enter through (neighbouring mall) Orchard Gateway, but could not. It would help if there was a sign explaining what's happening, but it's okay I understand this was an unplanned episode," said Ms Hoberger. "I think we'll choose another place for breakfast."

At 11am, some employees were allowed to enter the mall for a while to take what they needed from their shops.

Staff from steamboat restaurant Hai Di Lao were seen pushing their foodstuff and ingredients out of the mall. A staff member said that they make the soup base at the 313@somerset outlet every day, before sending it out. With the outlet closed, they are sending more soup bases to their other outlets and diverting customers there. 

Mr Teh Chee Foong, 20,  a sales assistant at fitness store I Run said: "Since we were closed for certain hours, we would have lost some customers. This would be considered just a half-day, so hopefully we can just pay half-day rental and get compensation for the loss in sales and for the staff's salaries."

The manager of clothing store Billabong Simon Lee, 25, said: "There are some concerns because it could mean we lost a few hundred dollars in sales in the morning." 

He said none of his shop's items were damaged. He could not comment on whether the shop will be asking for compensation from the management. 

But some retailers said that it tends to be quieter in the morning, and the crowd usually comes in after lunch. So the impact on their sales may not be that great. 

Ripcurl, where the fire supposedly started, is closed until further notice. The other shops have gradually reopened. But the escalators on one side of the mall are still closed for maintenance.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) had said it was alerted to the fire at around 10.25pm on Thursday (Dec 15). It said the fire was in a store room inside a shop on the fourth floor of the mall. The blaze was put out using a single water jet, while the mall's sprinkler system was also activated, according to an SCDF spokesman.

A woman was taken to Singapore General Hospital after she tripped and fell.

Photos sent in by a Straits Times reader on Thursday night showed SCDF vehicles lined up along Orchard Road in front of the mall, while another reader said there was a strong smell of smoke even from outside the mall.

Security guards were "running here and there" shouting at people to leave the mall and the fire alarm was activated.