SINGAPORE - A retired cabby recounted how he tried in vain to rescue an elderly neighbour who lived upstairs after fire swept through his flat on Monday.
Mr Teo Leng Soon, 77, died after a fire broke out in his rental unit at Block 3, Telok Blangah Crescent.
Mr Muhammad Fahmi Shaikmaroff, 64, was in his flat directly below at around 7am when he heard loud knocks and a thud upstairs. When he went to investigate, he found black smoke coming out of the eighth-floor unit.
"I could hear someone gasping for air," Mr Fahmi said. "I kept knocking, but no one opened the door, so I came down to my flat to find a hammer. I saw the firefighters when I returned. After they forced the door open, a lot of black smoke came out. You couldn't see anything at all."
The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) was alerted to the blaze at 7.15am, and deployed two fire bikes, two fire engines, one Red Rhino, two ambulances and one support vehicle. The fire was in the living room, and firefighters had to force open the door to gain entry. They extinguished it within five minutes. Mr Teo was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.
Two other residents on the same floor - a man in his 30s and woman in her 80s - were taken conscious to Singapore General Hospital, after suffering from breathlessness.
Neighbours said the deceased was single and had lived alone in the block for at least 20 years. He also had difficulty walking.
Mr Juffri Mohammad Noor, 50, a retired forklift driver who lives two units away, said: "I was sleeping when it happened. Another neighbour on the ninth floor came to my place and said he saw smoke. A few of us knocked on his door, but there was no sound, so we thought he had gone out."
Residents from the eighth to 10th floor were evacuated as a precautionary measure. Investigations are ongoing.