Officers at frontline recall horrors of Little India riot

SCDF compiles accounts by first response teams, shares info with public

Firefighters (above) putting out the flames of a burning vehicle during the riot. -- ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH
Firefighters (above) putting out the flames of a burning vehicle during the riot. -- ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH
Staff Sgt Nor Aisyah (above) is among the personnel whose experiences have been compiled into a special report by the SCDF. -- ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

With two police vehicles suddenly set ablaze right in front of her, Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) paramedic Nor Aisyah stood stunned, thinking this was the end.

Already hurt earlier in the leg by a concrete slab that was hurled through the broken window of her ambulance, the staff sergeant snapped herself back to attention when she realised that a crush of rioters had converged around the vehicle she was in.

Some of the rioters were beginning to reach through the broken windows and going for the keys in the ignition.

A police officer who had sought shelter in the ambulance turned to her and said: "You have to run or you will be burned alive in the ambulance."

As they sprinted to safety, the rioters turned their attention to the vehicle, which was carrying highly flammable oxygen tanks.

"Just as I thought the episode was over... I stood still and witnessed my very own ambulance, Alpha 111, burn from afar," Staff Sgt Nor Aisyah said.

Her account was one of several compiled into a special report and shared with the public by the SCDF on its Facebook page on Christmas Day.

In the Facebook post, the SCDF thanked members of the public for the notes of appreciation it received following the Little India riot on Dec 8 that left 25 government vehicles damaged and some 39 police, SCDF and auxiliary officers injured.

Other accounts by first responders include that of four Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (Dart) specialists, who recalled the terror of driving towards the accident scene, even as their vehicle was pelted with concrete slabs, bricks and trash cans.

The duty fire officer remembered how policemen at the scene protected firefighters and casualties from the rioters' wrath.

"They formed an outer ring, and with their shields, they led us towards the ambulance," said Captain Huang Rong Shen, whose team was tasked with escorting the bus driver and timekeeper to safety. "As we hurried ourselves, a huge brick hit one of the police officers on his head," Capt Huang remembered.

Even after the Dart officers stopped their rescue vehicle, the projectiles did not stop. Instead, more bricks were flung inside, the shattered glass injuring the rescuers inside.

Rioters began to surge towards their vehicle, some with fire bombs in their hands. "We had no idea what they were made of, but we knew that it could potentially set our SRT ablaze," said a Dart specialist who was on board. The SRT is a special rescue vehicle used by the Dart team.

"We knew we had to leave the scene."

Little India riot breaks out

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.