SINGAPORE - The couple were watching television in their living room when a fire broke out in one of the rooms in their four-room flat.
Mr Saravana Moorthy, 58, who works as an engineering instructor, tried to put out the fire with his wife Madam Lolita Eclebia, also 58, and their 18-year-old son.
But when the flames became too large, they evacuated.
The fire quickly engulfed the Housing Board flat on the third floor of Block 222 Lorong 8 Toa Payoh on Friday night (Aug 12).
Madam Eclebia, who works at a restaurant, told The Straits Times that she briefly panicked when evacuating.
She said: “I quickly grabbed the backpack I use for work since it was the closest thing to me.
“I noticed my daughter’s passport lying nearby so I grabbed that too, along with my own and a statue of the Virgin Mary.”
Three fire engines were spotted at the scene when ST arrived at about 9.30pm and around 50 people from the block were evacuated by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and the police as a precaution.
A resident who wanted to be known only as Madam Chia said she was home on the 14th floor of the block and started to smell smoke at around 8.40pm.
"My nephew was leaving the flat when he told me there were fire engines downstairs," the 65-year-old said.
"I immediately closed all my windows and went downstairs to check it out."
Another resident, who did not want to be identified, said he initially thought the smell of smoke came from burnt offerings for the Hungry Ghost Festival.
He added: "When we realised it was a fire, we immediately took our things and came downstairs."
The SCDF said in a Facebook post that it was alerted to the fire at about 8.20pm and firefighters had to force their way into the unit.
“Upon SCDF’s arrival, the fire was raging and thick black smoke was emitting from a unit on the third floor. At the height of the firefighting operation, two water jets were deployed to fight the fire. As a result of the fire, the entire unit was affected by heat and smoke damage,” said the SCDF in its post.
One person was taken to Singapore General Hospital for smoke inhalation, while another who was assessed by an SCDF paramedic for smoke inhalation refused to be taken to the hospital.
One of them is believed to be an elderly woman who lives on the fourth floor.
Mr Saktiandi Supaat, MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, told ST at the scene that the fire was put out within 30 minutes, and that assistance will be provided to those affected.
“Currently, the affected family as well as immediate neighbours nearby and upstairs are taking shelter at the Residents’ Committee centre,” he said.
The SCDF said the cause of the fire is being investigated.