Rescuers had to force their way into cluttered bedroom

Flat had accumulation of combustible items; child's mother in hospital in critical condition

Three people, including a three-year-old, died in a fire that broke out in the living room of a flat in Bedok North yesterday morning.

When Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) personnel arrived at the fourth-floor flat at about 6.40am, they found four unconscious people in the unit which had a vast accumulation of combustible items, it said in a Facebook post.

The toddler and mother, 34, and a man, 35 - occupants of the unit in Block 409 Bedok North Avenue 2 - were taken to hospital unconscious.

The man and the toddler died of their injuries in hospital, the police said. The mother remains in critical condition. Another occupant, a 56-year-old woman, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Speaking to reporters, Mr Tan Kiat How, Minister of State for Communications and Information and for National Development, said that five people lived in the affected unit. They were a couple and three tenants - comprising another couple and a toddler.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

The SCDF put out the fire in the living room with a water jet. It found the 56-year-old woman in the living room, while the mother, toddler and man were found in a bedroom.

Firefighters had to force their way into the cluttered bedroom to rescue the people inside.

SCDF personnel performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on two of the victims. All of them were taken to Changi General Hospital.

Mr Tan, an MP for East Coast GRC, said: "It's a very sad case. The family was really affected. The parents were protecting the toddler. I'm sure their last moments were a period of sadness and desperation. My heart is really torn.

"We want to make sure we take all steps to take care of the family and their loved ones."

He added in a Facebook post that the condition of one person in hospital is being closely monitored, referring to the toddler's mother.

SCDF officers also rescued people in a unit next door after forcing entry into the flat. Their injuries were minor and they did not want to be taken to hospital. Sixty residents were evacuated from neighbouring units as a precaution.

When The Straits Times arrived at 8.35am, at least 10 policemen were seen at the foot of the block reassuring those who had evacuated.

The block had been cordoned off and an SCDF ambulance was stationed nearby.

Mr Eric Seah, 50, who works in sales in the car industry, said that at 6.45am, his neighbour banged on his door, saying there was a fire.

"There was thick smoke. It was very pungent. Everyone was rushing down," said Mr Seah, who lives alone on the sixth storey.

He added that most residents evacuated by taking the stairs.

Another resident, Madam Lee Mei Mei, who lives on the fifth storey with her two siblings, said: "I knew there was something wrong this morning. I could see the smoke from my window. When I opened the main door, a gust of smoke blew at me."

The cleaner, 70, added: "I ran to the kitchen and got a big wet towel. We threw it at the base of the door to stop the smoke from coming in.

"I rushed into my room to grab my bag. I didn't even have time to change my shoes or wear a mask."

When she and her siblings reached the first floor, they saw that a fire was ablaze in a unit on the fourth storey.

Madam Lee said: "I was just stunned. I didn't know it was so bad. It was so scary."

At 11.30am, some contractors and representatives from the East Coast Town Council were seen at the affected unit doing repair work and clearing debris.

Mr Tan said efforts are under way to find accommodation for the remaining occupant.

He added that the unit adjacent to the one that caught fire had two occupants - a woman and her foreign domestic helper. Mr Tan said the woman was related to the family in the other unit. "Our community partners are seeing what else they need and what other support we can offer to them."

Mr Tan added that by midday, almost all residents of the affected block had returned to their flats.

"Some of them are still shaken but are coping well."

 • Additional reporting by Tasneem Begum Mustapha

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 14, 2022, with the headline Rescuers had to force their way into cluttered bedroom. Subscribe