SINGAPORE - A search operation has commenced for a missing person after a bumboat cruising on the Singapore River near the Esplanade caught fire on Tuesday (July 12) afternoon.
In eyewitness videos posted on Facebook, massive plumes of smoke can be seen rising from the boat as a large crowd looked on from the surrounding walkways.
Luke, an 18-year-old IT student who was shooting a time-lapse video of the Merlion at the time, told The Straits Times that he saw a middle-aged man clad in yellow jump into the water from the rear of the boat, before hearing three to four "soft blasts".
A video sent in by ST reader Ivan Seah showed a man escaping as flames consumed the front of the craft.
The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said in a Facebook post at 8.12pm that it extinguished the fire using two water jets. Its divers have commenced a search operation for a missing person, believed to be the boat operator.
There were no other reported missing persons or injuries, SCDF said.
In a subsequent post, SCDF said its elite DART rescuers are facing the challenge of poor underwater visibility at night. Besides point diving at a depth of about 4m, it added that the team is moving in a grid formation and employing a circular search pattern from the point where the missing person was last seen.
After the fire was put out, smaller tug boats were spotted taking the charred boat near the steps of the Esplanade theatre.
The owner of a nearby food stall said that he had not heard any shouting or screaming during the incident.
Marketing professional Lim Wui Liang, 36, said: "I'm on the 44th floor of Suntec Tower 1. I was about to leave work at 6.25pm, when I saw this huge plume of smoke.
"I knew something was burning and I moved to another window to get a better look."