'I didn't even put on my slippers': Residents ran for their lives from fire at Pipit Road

The fire broke out on the ninth floor of Block 94 Pipit Road on Nov 10, 2021. PHOTOS: SHIN MIN DAILY NEWS READER, SCDF

SINGAPORE - Mr Abdullah Mohammad Taha, a food delivery rider, was in his kitchen on Wednesday night (Nov 10) when he heard what sounded like a loud clap of thunder.

He looked out of the kitchen window and saw smoke spewing from the nearby stairwell in his block at 94 Pipit Road.

The 33-year-old, who served as a firefighter with the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) during his national service, rushed out of his flat and saw a power-assisted bicycle (PAB) burning a few doors away from his ninth-storey flat.

Mr Abdullah called the SCDF. "Then I quickly went downstairs to get the fire extinguisher," he added.

His parents, who were having dinner when the explosion occurred, pitched in to put out the fire.

"My parents filled up two big buckets with water and I tried to put out the fire before the SCDF came," he said, adding that he and his father used the fire extinguisher and poured water on the PAB for about 10 minutes.

His stepmother, Madam Aishah Abdullah, 52, told The Straits Times: "I panicked when I saw the fire because it was quite near to our flat.

"We quickly ran to find our buckets, filled (them) with water and poured. I think we used over 20 buckets of water."

Madam Aishah said she then helped an elderly neighbour who uses a wheelchair to evacuate and go downstairs.

The SCDF said in a Facebook post on Wednesday night that it was alerted to the fire at about 8.05pm. Firefighters extinguished the fire with compressed air foam and a water jet, which was used to damp down the affected area.

Preliminary investigations into the cause of the fire indicated that it was of electrical origin from the PAB. About 90 residents from nearby units were evacuated by SCDF and the police as a precautionary measure.

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When The Straits Times visited the location at 10.30am on Thursday, the corridor where the incident happened was dark as the electricity supply had been disrupted.

The walls were black with soot and the floor was wet. A few residents were cleaning up inside and outside their flats.

Food delivery rider Faizal Md Razali, 44, who had borrowed the PAB from a friend, said he was having dinner with his son outside and no one was home when the fire happened.

Expressing his gratitude to Mr Abdullah, he said: "I am thankful for him for looking out for my flat when I am not around."

Food delivery rider Abdullah Mohammad Taha beside his neighbour's borrowed power-assisted bicycle that had caught fire on Nov 10. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Mr Faizal said he had borrowed the bike about two weeks ago for his 23-year-old son, who is also doing food delivery. His friend had the bike for about five years, he added.

He said he was puzzled about how the fire happened, adding that the PAB was not being charged at the time.

"The bike had not been charged for two days. The charger was inside the flat," he said.

Preliminary investigation into the cause of the fire indicates that it was of electrical origin from the power-assisted bicycle. PHOTO: SCDF

His next-door neighbour Sitti Baharom, 70, a housewife, said she was shocked when she heard a loud explosion. Smoke filled her flat when she opened her door, setting off her fire alarm.

Madam Sitti, who evacuated barefoot, said that residents only returned home at about 11pm.

The walls outside her flat were covered with soot, but there was no damage inside her flat as she had closed her door before leaving, she said.

She said she did not blame Mr Faizal. "I know that they are also sad about it. It's just an accident."

Another neighbour, who only wanted to be known as Madam Sarah, 70, had taken the day off to clear the soot inside her flat.

Recalling the incident, the cook in a childcare centre said: "I heard a loud sound and thought the cleaners were washing the floor, so I wondered to myself, why are they cleaning at night?

"When I opened the door, smoke came in and the lights went out suddenly. I panicked. I was alone and didn't know what to do," she said, adding that she ran to the end of the corridor furthest from the fire.

"I didn't even put on my slippers and just ran."

She experienced chest pain after the incident and was given oxygen by a SCDF medic.

Mr Faizal said that the water pipe in his flat had burst and his electrical appliances, such as his television set, modem and computer were water-damaged. He estimated that the damage, including the PAB, was about $10,000.

He added: "I regret that this has happened and am sorry to all my neighbours as this has caused inconvenience to them."

MacPherson MP Tin Pei Ling visited the block on Wednesday night at about 9pm. She said on Facebook on Wednesday night that she had spoken to the Housing Board about whether it could make available temporary units for affected residents to stay in until it is safe for them to return to their homes.

She told ST on Thursday that HDB had updated her that none of the residents needed the temporary units.

Ms Tin was told by a HDB officer that an engineer had assessed the units and concluded that they did not suffer any structural damage.

The MP added: "If the residents need further assistance, (they can) approach me, my grassroots or the community centre, and we will do what we can to help."

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