Two people had to be saved from the 13th-storey ledge of a burning flat in Bukit Batok yesterday in a dramatic early-morning rescue by firefighters using a 60m-long ladder with a rescue cage.
A third victim, a woman in her 60s, was sheltering inside the toilet of the one-room flat and was also taken to safety by first responders.
Watched by dozens of residents gathered below the block or in their own corridors, firefighters lowered to safety two men in their 60s and 30s, who had climbed onto the ledge in a desperate attempt to escape the flames.
The three were taken to Singapore General Hospital for burn injuries and smoke inhalation.
The Straits Times understands that the younger man, believed to be the couple's son, may have suffered serious burn injuries.
The fire began shortly after 4am in the rental flat at Block 210A Bukit Batok Street 21.
A resident on the third floor, hearing the screams for help and discovering that a flat was on fire, ran up to the 13th floor but found access to the corridor blocked by items.
Mr Borhan Yusof said the woman works as a karung guni collector.
The technical officer, 53, said: "I know the woman, every night she will walk around the block to collect items."
The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said in a Facebook post yesterday that items accumulated in the kitchen of the flat limited the working space, and the two men on the ledge were exhausted, making it difficult for them to be pulled to safety inside the flat.
Instead, officers secured them with ropes from inside while rescuers rappelled from the unit above to help them into the rescue cage.
"This is the first time I've seen them use that special crane. The residents were rescued from the window," said Mr Borhan, who has lived in the block since 2012.
The cause of the fire is being investigated.
When ST visited the unit last night, the corridor had been cleared of items but a peek through the gate revealed the charred remains of household appliances and belongings in mounds inside the flat that reached nearly to the ceiling.
Neighbours told ST the woman often brought home used furniture and cardboard boxes that had to be left in the corridor.
"There was space for only one person to walk through," said Mr James Sangili, a resident on the ninth floor, who is in his 30s.
Yesterday, neighbours were woken up by the smell of burning.
Mr Chua Hai Inn, 78, who lives in the unit directly above, told ST: "I thought I didn't turn off the stove, so I went to check. That's when I heard someone shouting from the unit below, 'Help! There's a fire!'"
Mr Chua quickly roused his wife and daughter and, taking their dog, they left their flat hastily, without even putting on shoes.
The neighbour next door to the burnt flat said he tried to put out the fire with a pail of water but could not.
Stuffing rags under his front door to prevent smoke from getting in, he went to wait for rescue at his kitchen window where, looking out, he said he could see the two men squatting on the ledge next door.