On the orders of a loan shark, a young man flung a lit Molotov cocktail at the front door of his neighbour's flat, which caused a stationary electric bicycle nearby to explode.
The debtor's father and younger sister, who were in the sixth-storey unit in Jurong West, climbed out of their master bedroom window and stood on a ledge to escape the blaze.
One of their neighbours was taken to hospital after suffering burn injuries and smoke inhalation while walking down a flight of stairs.
Lu Mingduo, 20, who threw the Molotov cocktail, pleaded guilty in court yesterday to acting on behalf of an unlicensed moneylender.
The court heard that at about 11pm on Aug 7, the loan shark, known only as "Sunny", called Lu's home phone, claiming that one of the young man's next door neighbours had borrowed some money from him.
Sunny threatened to target Lu if he did not harass the debtor. Court documents did not state how he found Lu's home phone number. Sunny instructed Lu on how to make the Molotov cocktail. At around 5pm the next day, Lu did as he was told.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Shana Poon said: "This caused the entire corridor to be encapsulated with fire. Upon seeing the fire escalate, the accused ran downstairs, away from the scene."
DPP Poon said the occupants of the flat, the debtor's 64-year-old father and 13-year-old sister, were later rescued by Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officers.
The court was also told that another man, Mr Chua Kim Leng, 51, who lived on the 10th storey, heard the explosion and decided to leave when smoke entered his home.
He did not take a lift and was walking down a flight of stairs when he was overcome by smoke and intense heat at an eighth-storey landing.
SCDF officers eventually put out the fire and Mr Chua was taken to Ng Teng Fong General Hospital. He was transferred to the Singapore General Hospital burns unit later that day, suffering from injuries including burns to his face, toes and upper arms, and was discharged on Aug 17.
The court heard that the total estimated cost incurred by Jurong-Clementi Town Council for restoration works was more than $10,000.
The fire also caused about $5,000 in damage to the sixth-storey flat. Lu has made no restitution.
District Judge Ong Hian Sun has called for a report to assess Lu's suitability for reformative training and has adjourned the case to Dec 10.