Help for workers who lost belongings in Keat Hong dorm fire

THE fire that ravaged a dormitory at a construction site for Build-to-Order flats on Thursday morning left about 230 workers stranded and destroyed most of their valuables.

Since then, they have been relocated and have received financial assistance from their employer, Kuan Aik Hong.

The Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC), a non-profit non-governmental organisation (NGO), is also making sure that their well-being is taken care of.

"I was scared. I didn't have anything. Many headache (sic)," recounted Bangladeshi construction worker Sayfun Isslam, 30.

He lost $2,000 in cash, a laptop and two mobile phones in the blaze at Keat Hong Quad.

The workers were relocated to a dormitory in Toa Payoh at around 3pm on Thursday.

The Straits Times understands that they were actually due to move out within a week of that day as construction at the site had reached the final stage.

The dormitory in Toa Payoh would have been their living quarters eventually, but the fire inadvertently expedited the move.

MWC was on hand to monitor the moving process yesterday, and executive director Bernard Menon said he was satisfied with the procedures followed.

"Ministry of Manpower officials examined the living quarters in Toa Payoh and confirmed that they were liveable. We were also given assurances by the contractor that it would attend to the workers' needs," he said.

MWC provided the workers with a 24-hour helpline in case they required assistance. However, Mr Menon said, the centre had not received any calls as of yesterday evening - which was a good sign that the workers were being taken care of.

Even so, he remains alarmed by the spike in dormitory-related fires in recent months.

He said: "We did not have such high-profile cases in the previous two years.

"We urge all employers to play a proactive role in ensuring safe and secure accommodation for foreign workers."

The Straits Times understands that the workers were given $200 each by their employer, to buy personal necessities to tide them over this period.

Mr Isslam said he appreciated the helping hand and went shopping for provisions yesterday.

"I am happy my boss helped me. I bought luggage bag, T-shirt, pants and toothbrush today," he said.

"But I don't know how long more (the money) can last - my family is still waiting (for me) to send them money."

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