Driver and family escape lightning bolt and explosion in Bukit Batok West

The footage - from a car's dashboard camera - showed an explosion from a manhole outside the estate's multi-storey carpark. PHOTOS: SAM TAN/FACEBOOK, ST PHOTO: ZAIHAN MOHAMED YUSOF
The SCDF told The Straits Times that it received a call at 9.10am about a flash fire from a manhole at Block 439 Bukit Batok West. ST PHOTO: ZAIHAN MOHAMED YUSOF

SINGAPORE - Mr Gabriel Tan had to contend with heavy rain - and an unexpected explosion - when he took his son to a childcare centre on Tuesday (Aug 24).

He was driving past a multi-storey carpark in Bukit Batok West when he saw a lightning bolt strike the ground in front of his car.

"If I had accelerated, my car could have been struck (by the bolt) or hit by the flying bricks," Mr Tan, 34, an oil and gas trader, told The Straits Times.

"Fortunately, we were all safe," he said, adding that he managed to stop the car in time.

The explosion at the entrance of a carpark opposite Block 439B sent bricks hurtling skywards and unsealed a manhole cover.

The incident, captured on Mr Tan's car dashboard camera at about 8.40am, has been shared multiple times on WhatsApp.

Mr Tan, who lives in the estate, said his wife, who works in the IT industry, and toddler son were in the rear passenger seats.

"The sound of the impact of the strike was not exceptionally loud because my son continued watching cartoons in the car without being distracted.

"I wasn't afraid or shaking in fear. The incident was just something unexpected," added Mr Tan, who made a detour to head to the childcare centre.

Still, his friends and well-wishers have called and told him that he is a lucky driver.

Dr Amy Khor, MP for Hongkah North and Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, and Transport, told ST that she understands there are telecommunications cables beneath the manhole.

"The incident caught many residents by surprise this morning," she said. She added that the presence of staff from agencies such as Chua Chu Kang Town Council, PUB, City Gas and Singtel assured residents that the incident was being investigated.

"For the residents' safety, I asked the relevant authorities to check the various manholes in the vicinity. Before I left the site this morning, the authorities had started barricading and inspecting several manholes."

Dr Khor said the town council will start reinstatement works as soon as possible. It has cordoned off the affected lane to the carpark.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) told ST that it received a call at 9.10am about a flash fire from a manhole at Block 439 Bukit Batok West.

It said the incident did not lead to a fire and there was no reported injury.

A spokesman said: "Preliminary investigations indicate that the incident is accidental in nature and investigations are ongoing."

The SCDF said the incident did not lead to a fire and there was no reported injury. ST PHOTO: ZAIHAN MOHAMED YUSOF

News of the explosion came as a surprise to residents such as Mr Mardzuki Matnor, who heard a loud bang on Tuesday but did not think anything was amiss.

It was raining heavily, with thunder rumbling since 6am.

"The driver of the car was close to the explosion. If he had been at that very spot as he drove by, he could have been hurt," said Mr Mardzuki.

The 42-year-old auxiliary policeman, who lives in Block 439B, saw a video clip of the incident that was shared on social media platforms.

Remote video URL

Another resident, who gave his name only as Mr Loh, said a friend alerted him to the video footage. Mr Loh, 35, an engineer, said: "I went to the carpark at 10.30am to have a look. There was a small crowd of onlookers but it didn't look too serious."

Mr Wilson Teo, 39, a resident of Block 439B, said he slept through the commotion. When he woke up at around 9am, he was surprised to see the police and SCDF personnel on site.

"With the air-con running, my room is almost soundproof. When I saw the video clip, I thought to myself that this place looks very familiar. But I'm glad nobody was hurt," he said.

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