Punggol residents plagued by rainwater in flats and false fire alarms

Fire alarms going off in the wee hours of Tuesday, (July 14, 2015) morning, at Waterway Terraces in Punggol.VIDEO: FABIAN LAU
BTO project Waterway Terraces I in Punggol.
BTO project Waterway Terraces I in Punggol. PHOTO: FABIAN LAU
Rainwater seeped into some flats, including Mr Eric Loh's unit (above), at Waterway Terraces I in Punggol during a heavy downpour on Tuesday.
Rainwater seeped into some flats, including Mr Eric Loh's unit (above), at Waterway Terraces I in Punggol during a heavy downpour on Tuesday. PHOTO: ERIC LOH
Rainwater seeped into some flats, including Mr Eric Loh's unit (above), at Waterway Terraces I in Punggol during a heavy downpour on Tuesday.
Rainwater seeped into some flats, including Mr Eric Loh's unit (above), at Waterway Terraces I in Punggol during a heavy downpour on Tuesday. PHOTO: ERIC LOH
Rainwater seeped into some flats, including Mr Eric Loh's unit (above), at Waterway Terraces I in Punggol during a heavy downpour on Tuesday.
Rainwater seeped into some flats, including Mr Eric Loh's unit (above), at Waterway Terraces I in Punggol during a heavy downpour on Tuesday. PHOTO: ERIC LOH
Resident Terrence Tan's 10th floor flat was one of the units at Waterway Terraces I in Punggol that was affected during Tuesday's downpour.
Resident Terrence Tan's 10th floor flat was one of the units at Waterway Terraces I in Punggol that was affected during Tuesday's downpour. PHOTO: TERRENCE TAN

SINGAPORE -When engineer Eric Loh woke up at about 2am on Tuesday, he was shocked to find rain water entering his four-room flat in Punggol, even though his windows were closed.

He recalled: "It was raining very heavily and water was coming in from my balcony door and the windows in two of the rooms. I had to put pieces of cloth on the ledges to soak up the water."

To make matters worse, the fire alarms in the estate went off soon after. Even though there was no fire, the alarms rang for more than half an hour, he said.

"This is not the first time it has happened," said Mr Loh, 30, who moved in with his wife and one-and-a-half month-old daughter last month. "My wife and daughter cannot get proper rest. There's a lot of renovation in the day, and alarms going off at night."

He is one of about 20 residents of Waterway Terraces I, a Housing Board (HDB) Build-To-Order (BTO) project, who took to Facebook to complain about water seeping into their flats during Tuesday's heavy downpour.

Some said their units were "flooded", resulting in damage to their parquet floors. Many also mentioned that fire alarms had gone off several times in the wee hours of the morning, and cited safety concerns.

"We keep getting woken up," said finance assistant Fabian Lau, 28, who moved in two months ago with his wife. "We've mentioned this to the Building Services Centre but it is still happening. If there's really a fire in future nobody will care."

These complaints emerged just as Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee told Parliament on Monday that the ramping up of the BTO flat supply in the past four years has not compromised their quality.

Dr Janil Puthucheary, MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, visited 17 of the affected units on Tuesday.

He said in a Facebook post on the same day: "Without any engineering expertise, it looks to me that this is not one specific fault or defect, but rather different problems in different units resulting in the rain coming in.

"For some its an issue with the drain, some the window frame, some the railings, or the fit of the main door. Nevertheless it all needs to be dealt with.

"The contractors came with me to each unit and will also be following up again. They have assured me that the problems will be fixed by this week, the problems leading to the water coming in that is."

Dr Puthucheary added that the HDB and area's town council would help to expedite fixing the problems.

Some residents of neighbouring project ,Waterway Terraces II, who have just begun to collect their keys, are worried that their own flats will be plagued by the same problems.

One of them, casino croupier Benny Ong, 30, said: "I am concerned because it's the same contractor and designer . We want to wait for the problems to be rectified before we move in."

The HDB said it received feedback about water seeping into flats from the owners of 24 units at Waterway Terraces I. Said a spokesman: "Most of these units face an open field, making them more prone to impact by heavy downpours."

She added that this is the first time the HDB has received such feedback, and that inspections were carried out on the same day.

"Preliminary checks indicate that because of the intense rainfall and direction of the wind, rainwater had accumulated at the balcony area and in some cases, had also seeped into the living rooms or bedrooms connected to the balcony.

"To resolve the issue, we will carry out improvement works that will improve the flow of water in the balcony," she said.

The HDB also said there were two cases of feedback on false fire alarms and investigations are ongoing to determine the cause.

yeosamjo@sph.com.sg