SINGAPORE - Nearly 70 unauthorised dormitories were discovered in Geylang in the last four months.
The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) had inspected 164 apartments and shophouses at Geylang since December last year. The checks uncovered 68 unauthorised dormitories that either did not have proper fire safety approvals or official permission from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) to be used as dormitories.
The SCDF had stepped up its enforcement checks after a fire at a walk-up apartment at Lorong 4 Geylang last December killed four Malaysian foreign workers who were working as cleaners.
Last Friday, a similar fire occurred barely 200m away at a second floor walk-up apartment at Lorong 6 Geylang.
Two construction workers from Bangladesh - Mr Mamun Abdullah, 22 and Mr Hosen Ali, 20 - died in the blaze. Three other workers were injured.
Investigations into last week's fire are still ongoing. No one has been charged in court for the December fire yet, even though investigations have been completed. But both walk-up apartments were believed to have been used as unauthorised dormitories housing more than 30 workers in cramped quarters.
According to URA guidelines, rented residential properties can house a maximum of eight people, regardless of size.
The SCDF warned that those who make unauthorised changes that affect the fire safety at their premises may be fined up to $200,000, jailed up to two years, or both.
It also vowed to step up checks to stamp out illegal dormitories.
"The enforcement efforts by the relevant authorities on illegal dormitories are on-going," said an SCDF spokesman. "We appeal to the public to work with us to improve the fire safety standard throughout the island."
Public tip-offs led to about one-third of the 13,903 fire safety inspections last year, said the SCDF. From the inspections, 1,448 cases of unauthorised change of use of premises were discovered, of which 519 were cases of unauthorised dormitories, said the SCDF.