SINGAPORE – A personal mobility device (PMD) caught fire while being charged in the common corridor of a Housing Board (HDB) rental flat in Pipit Road on Friday morning.
The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) was alerted to the fire on the second floor of Block 94 at 6.45am and it was put out by a water jet.
One person was taken to KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.
Preliminary investigation into the fire revealed that it was of electrical origin from the PMD.
The SCDF reminded the public to take steps to prevent PMD fires, such as not leaving charging devices unattended for an extended period of time or overnight, and to not charge power-assisted bicycles and PMDs near combustible materials or in an escape path. Buying or using non-original batteries are also discouraged.
The owner of the unit, Mr Yusof, 54, told Lianhe Zaobao that he was not at home when the fire happened but his family was shocked by the incident.
“My elder son and I both work as food delivery riders, and he usually comes back at around 4am to sleep and charge his PMD. When the fire started, both my sons tried to put out the fire with a small extinguisher but to no avail so they had no choice but to call SCDF for help.”
On Saturday evening, two volunteers were distributing food in the area when they came across hungry cats which appeared to live in the affected unit.
“My husband and I were looking for the units to drop off the bags of food when a few really skinny cats jumped onto us, likely due to the smell of the food that was coming from our bags,” said the wife, who declined to be named.
“We went back to our car and took two packets of cat food that we happened to keep in our car for feeding stray cats. The cats finished the food in minutes, while more cats started coming out from the unit.”
Worried about the situation, the couple contacted the relevant authorities for assistance.
When they returned to the unit later that evening with more cat food, a young man told them that the family had 30 cats and was thinking of giving them away for adoption due to the fire.
It is currently illegal to keep cats as pets in HDB flats but the government has been exploring the possibility of doing so since September 2022.
When contacted by The Straits Times, the Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS) and the Cat Welfare Society (CWS) said they were aware of the incident.
AVS group director Jessica Kwok said: “We are looking into it. We will take in the cats if they were found to be in poor condition or neglected, and will investigate it as an animal welfare case.”
She added that AVS does not condone the mistreatment of pets. First-time offenders caught abusing an animal may be charged under the Animals and Birds Act, and can be fined up to $15,000, jailed up to 18 months, or both.
CWS president Thenuga Vijakumar said it understood that the owners have since returned to the unit.
“It is not clear how long the owners had been away from the unit or the current conditions of the cats,” she said.
“We are in touch with AVS and will be organising a visit by our community engagement manager to the unit to understand the condition of the cats and to offer assistance. For example, if the cats appear to be unsterilised, we can offer urgent sterilisation slots.”
When ST visited the unit on Sunday, the door was shut and no one appeared to be at home. A black plastic material was tied between the gate and door of the unit.
One resident living on the third storey said he used to feed the cats but has not seen them since Sunday.
Mr Yusof told Zaobao that his family feeds the cats regularly and the cats are often kept at home so that they do not affect others.
In response to queries, MacPherson MP Tin Pei Ling said the family usually keep their door closed.
“We came to know that there were a number of cats in the house only on Friday, when a fire broke out and the family was forced to open the door.”
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said that while it does not have the legal right to seize an animal without the consent of its guardian, it works with the authorities to provide advisory and rehoming support when required.
“If a pet guardian requires social assistance, they may reach out to the SPCA for help such as pet food assistance and veterinary care,” said its executive director Aarthi Sankar.
- Additional reporting by Chin Hui Shan