Loud explosion heard as fire breaks out near Malay shrines on Kusu Island hilltop

The fire was put out with two water jets within an hour of SCDF’s arrival. PHOTO: SINGAPORE CIVIL DEFENCE FORCE/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - Several explosions rocked the evening air and thick smoke billowed from Kusu Island on Sunday (April 17) after a fire broke out at a hilltop where three Malay keramats (shrines) are located.

Witnesses who saw the fire from nearby Lazarus Island said the blaze started at about 6.20pm.

The Police Coast Guard, Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) later arrived at the scene.

Heavy rain helped to douse the flames, which looked to have engulfed the area near the shrines.

Mr Vitor Hong, 42, was camping on Lazarus Island with four friends when they heard a loud explosion followed by smaller ones.

"The fire was very big," the engineer told The Straits Times, adding that smoke from the blaze had covered one side of the 8.5ha island.

He said a firefighting boat arrived at about 7pm and the fire looked to have died down by about 8pm, due in part to the downpour.

Mr Nur Muhammad Khayzan Abas, 41, who was on a yacht near Lazarus Island, said he did not hear any explosions but smelled something burning.

"I thought it was something to do with my vessel. But when I looked towards the sky over the Kusu Island area, there was black smoke," said the yacht captain.

As he was ferrying passengers, Mr Khayzan said he had to head back to One Degree 15 Marina at Sentosa Cove. On the way, he passed by Kusu Island and saw the hilltop engulfed in flames.

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At the Kusu Island pier were a Police Coast Guard boat and an MPA boat, he said. He did not see any day-trippers or recreational activity. "Usually at about 6.30pm, there is no longer a crowd there," he added.

SCDF said its marine and land-based firefighting forces responded to the fire amid a heavy downpour.

A Marine Rescue Vessel (MRV) and a Rapid Response Fire Vessel from Brani Marine Fire Station and West Coast Marine Fire Station were despatched to the island, along with firefighting crew from Marina Bay Fire Station.

Using the MRV as a water pump, firefighters laid hoses from the Kusu Island jetty to the top of the hill, covering a distance of about 520m, SCDF said in a Facebook post late on Sunday night.

The fire, which was raging at the cluster of shrines atop the hill, was put out with two water jets within an hour of SCDF’s arrival.

There were no reported injuries, SCDF said, and the cause of the fire is being investigated.

Heavy rain helped to douse the flames, which looked to have engulfed the area near the shrines. PHOTO: SCDF/FACEBOOK

Managed by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA), Kusu Island is home to the three Malay shrines as well as a Chinese temple.

During the ninth lunar month, which falls between September and November, an annual pilgrimage to the island attracts thousands of devotees who visit the Da Bo Gong (Tua Pek Kong) Temple located closer to the pier.

After paying their respects at the temple, many devotees will climb 152 steps up a small hill to visit the shrines of three Malay saints.

According to the SLA's website, the shrines were built to commemorate a 19th-century pious man, Syed Abdul Rahman, his mother Nenek Ghalib and sister Puteri Fatimah.

Correction note: An earlier version of this story said the Singapore Coast Guard was at the scene of the fire on Kusu Island. This is incorrect. The unit is called the Police Coast Guard.

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