Neighbours lend a helping hand to Woodlands e-scooter fire victims

Mr Shah Rizal Abdul Razak, a 34-year-old civil servant, and his wife Haryati Ali, a 31-year-old receptionist, checking the restoration work done in their kitchen and laundry area on Nov 4, 2017.
Mr Shah Rizal Abdul Razak, a 34-year-old civil servant, and his wife Haryati Ali, a 31-year-old receptionist, checking the restoration work done in their kitchen and laundry area on Nov 4, 2017. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - A fire, sparked by an electric scooter battery, destroyed his flat two months ago but Mr Shah Rizal Abdul Razak reckons he is somewhat lucky.

He escaped unscathed on Sept 22, although Mr Rizal said it was tragic that he lost two of his four cats.

The 34-year-old and his wife Haryati Ali, 31, are also thankful for neighbours who pitched in to help.

Take for example Mr Izzul Arifin Gazali, also 34. He told Mr Rizal that he can move in to his unoccupied home at Block 886B, Woodlands Drive 50, for as long as he needs to.

Mr Rizal's four-room unit is on the sixth floor while Mr Izzul's unit is on the 11th floor.

Mr Rizal, a civil servant, said: "He works as a nurse in Australia. When he heard about the fire, he reached out to us on Facebook, and told us we could stay in his flat for as long as we wanted."

The publicity-shy neighbour, who will be away until some time next year, said: "I did it out of goodwill."

And he has not been the only neighbour to lend a helping hand.

For two weeks after the fire, Ms Khadijah Ali, 33, who lives next door to the couple, left a donation box outside Mr Rizal's unit. It was for people who turned up out of curiosity after hearing about the fire.

Ms Haryati said their immediate neighbours, and even strangers, also raised $3,000 for them.

 
 
 

Then on Oct 26, home appliance company Midea Singapore donated over $5,000 worth of home appliances including a refrigerator, washing machine, rice cooker, vacuum cleaner, kettle, and even an air-conditioning unit.

"We were quite shocked. These things are essentials we need in our home," she said.

There were also bake sales by the couple's friends and family which raised $500, and a donation link set up on crowdfunding website Give.asia by the couple's neighbour, Ms Maslindah Sain, closed with $2,500 in contributions.

The 44-year-old instructional assistant at the Singapore American School now calls herself their "personal assistant".

"I helped them liaise with companies, like Midea, which wanted to donate," Ms Maslindah said.

"For now, we can't accept anymore donations because there's no more storage space, so I told the companies to wait until Rizal and Haryati are back (in their flat)."

The Singapore Civil Defence Force has classified the fire as an electrical accident sparked by Mr Rizal's e-scooter battery, although it was not being charged at the time of the incident.

There have been a spate of fires in Singapore involving electric personal mobility devices, with the latest happening on Nov 8 in Pasir Ris.

Mr Rizal said much of what they owned was destroyed in the fire and estimates that the couple will have to spend around $20,000 to refurbish their home, the same amount they spent three years ago when they renovated the unit.

Ms Haryati, a receptionist, said: "We're back to square one. We have to press the restart button again."

She currently juggles two jobs, her second one being a part-time makeup artist.

It has been a struggle but they have been overwhelmed by the acts of kindness, said the couple.

Renovation works have started at the flat and they expect to move back into their unit at the start of 2018.

Mr Rizal said: "My wife and I are coping slowly. Slowly but surely. Life still goes on, so we choose not to think so much about what has happened."