Toa Payoh fire: 61-year-old man arrested for mischief by fire, police investigating

Workers replace electrical cables at the void deck of Block 14A in Lorong 7 Toa Payoh, on June 20, 2017.
Workers replace electrical cables at the void deck of Block 14A in Lorong 7 Toa Payoh, on June 20, 2017. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Residents committee giving out lights and torches amid a still dark block 14A.ST VIDEO: REVATHI VALLUVAR
A view of Block 14A in Toa Payoh Lorong 7 in near darkness after the fire, on June 20, 2017.
A view of Block 14A in Toa Payoh Lorong 7 in near darkness after the fire, on June 20, 2017. PHOTO: DON WONG FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

SINGAPORE - Electricity at a Toa Payoh Housing Board block was fully restored close to 12pm on Wednesday (June 21) after a pre-dawn void deck fire at Block 14A Lorong 7 on Tuesday had cut power for more than 24 hours.

A 61-year-old man has also been arrested for mischief by fire and police are investigating the matter.

Most of the 117 units in the 25-storey HDB block got power back at 9am on Wednesday, except 24 units from level two to 12. Power was restored for those units by 12pm.

Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MP Saktiandi Supaat told The Straits Times that, based on a town council update, some units did not have electricity by 9am due to the riser and some cables being wet. It is unclear why the riser and cables are damp.

The fire at the void deck had damaged the wiring in the void deck ceiling.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force was alerted to the fire at 4.51am on Tuesday and it put out the fire in 10min using dry powder and compressed air foam.

Water and gas supplies to households in the block were also affected after the fire. Residents went without gas for about 10 hours and the gas supply was restored at 2.45pm on Tuesday.

The water supply to the block was disrupted at about 3am on Wednesday but water points at the block and a nearby one were turned on for residents when this happened. The water supply was restored later at 5.45am.

"Workers worked around the clock to replace and repair the electrical wiring, gas and plumbing. Electricity was more difficult to restore because many cables were burnt," said Mr Saktiandi, who visited the block on Tuesday evening.

He said feedback has been generally positive so far as residents were able to return home after lift services came back online at around 10pm on Tuesday. The block's second lift began working again at 11.55am on Wednesday.

Mr Saktiandi also highlighted the efforts of the residents' committee, who explained to residents that they were working hard to restore all services.

However, some residents said that they were not updated on when electricity would return for them after the power outage.

When The Straits Times visited the block on Wednesday morning, a burnt smell still lingered. Repair works to the void deck were underway as well.

The fire started among discarded items at the void deck, according to residents, damaging the void deck and covering the sides of the block with soot up to the fifth floor. About 50 residents had to be evacuated by emergency responders.

A 66-year-old woman was taken to Tan Tock Seng Hospital for smoke inhalation.

Speaking to The Straits Times, an eyewitness said a sofa had caught fire and he, together with other residents, tried to move away other rubbish from the flames. The sofa had been at the void deck for two days, one resident claimed.

However, a town council representative said conservancy workers did not see the sofa when they checked on Monday.

Mr Saktiandi said the matter is now under investigation.

"If (the sofa) is indeed the cause, this is a concern as it can affect people significantly," he said. "We have always encouraged residents to call the town council if they have any bulky or flammable items to dispose of."

He added that there had been no complaints of illegal dumping in Block 14A or the surrounding blocks.