SINGAPORE - A personal mobility device (PMD) left to charge in an Ang Mo Kio flat early on Monday (July 22) exploded in the afternoon, causing a fire that destroyed the flat and damaged two neighbouring units.
The e-scooter belonged to the fiance of the woman living in the rental flat who had charged his device in the kitchen before they both left for work.
But between 2pm and 3pm, the woman's older brothers, Mr Mohamad Fazir, 30, and Mohamad Fazrim, 26, who were in house at the time, heard a loud explosion.
Mr Fazir, who saw the e-scooter burst into flames, woke his brother, who was taking a nap in the living room, and they both rushed out of the front door.
"I saw the fire in front of my face and it spread so quickly," Mr Fazir told Yio Chu Kang's Citizens' Consultative Committee chairman (CCC) Tung Yui Fai when he visited the victims at 7pm.
The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said in a Facebook post that it responded to a fire on a fourth-floor unit of Block 224 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1 at about 3pm.
The fire was raging when the SCDF arrived, and one adult and three children were rescued from the unit next to the burning flat. Around 60 people from the affected block were evacuated by SCDF and police officers.
A video of the incident on YouTube showed plumes of smoke billowing out of the fourth-floor corridor as the fire engulfed the flat.
The fire was extinguished with one water jet.
Preliminary investigations into the cause of the fire indicate it was from a PMD placed in the kitchen, SCDF said.
This was the fourth fire that broke out in Housing Board flats this month, and the second fire involving PMDs in less than a week, putting PMD-related fires in the spotlight.
A 40-year-old man who was rescued from a burning Bukit Batok Housing Board flat on Thursday died in hospital. The fire was accidental and linked to three burnt personal mobility devices in the unit, according to preliminary investigations by SCDF.
The number of such fires have been on the rise, with 74 PMD-related fires reported last year, a 51 per cent spike from 2017, according to statistics from the SCDF.
Most occurred during charging or shortly after charging, according to the SCDF.
Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Koh Poh Koon, who visited the block earlier, told reporters that the affected family would be housed temporarily in a flat on the second floor of the block.
When The Straits Times arrived at the scene at 5.40pm on Monday, Mr Fazir's family and their relatives were moving their mattresses and household items they could salvage into the one-room flat.
The fiance of Mr Fazir's sister, both of whom did not want to be named, said: "It's strange because I've had this e-scooter for two years."
Mr Fazir, including his parents, two of his brothers and his youngest sister lived in the flat.
His sister-in-law, who also declined to be named, said all the siblings used to work as food delivery riders and had their own PMDs in the flat until they switched jobs about a year ago.
She said Mr Fazir's mother, who was at the market when the fire broke out, would always unplug the PMDs once they were fully charged.
She added: "It's just unfortunate that the e-scooter exploded in the house today, when the previous PMDs were fine."
The exterior of the two units next to the burnt-down flat were charred and the fire destroyed the electrical wires of one of the units, causing a power outage in the house.
The flat's owner, who wanted to be known only as Mr Muhammad, said his wife and children, all under the age of six, heard the explosion and huddled in a room.
Mr Fazir told Mr Tung: "I asked my neighbour (Mr Muhammad's wife) to come out of the house after my brother and I ran out of the flat, but she didn't."
Mr Muhammad, who works as a freelance mover and boat assistant, said: "There was a blackout and my wife was afraid to get out of the room. The SCDF rescued them."
At 7.15pm, Mr Tung and members of the CCC, including the neighbourhood's Citizens On Patrol, brought household necessities to Mr Fazir's family in their temporary flat on the second floor.
Fire safety tips for PABs and PMDs
- Do not charge a power-assisted bicycle (PAB) or personal mobility device (PMD) or its batteries near combustible materials
- Do not leave charging devices or batteries unattended for an extended period of time or overnight
- Buy and use PMDs with the UL2272 Certification Mark. More information on the UL2272 certification can be found on LTA's website
- Do not tamper with, modify or attempt to repair a PAB or PMD on your own
- Charge the PAB or PMD on a hard, flat surface to allow optimal dissipation of heat
- Regularly examine batteries for any damage or deformities such as bloating, corrosion or powdery residue