SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER) - Mr Armand Rafi was at Suntec City yesterday afternoon preparing for an exhibition when his cousin called to inform him that his flat was on fire.
The 43-year-old rushed home and when he arrived at the foot of his block, he found Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) firefighters and police officers at the void deck, with four of his five cats.
One of the cats, Pete, was almost motionless, and died a little later in Mr Armand's arms.
Speaking to The New Paper, Mr Armand said: "I feel so helpless. The cats are like my children. I was devastated when Pete died in my arms. I felt his heartbeat slowing down and I tried to talk to him."
The fifth cat was found alive later.
The SCDF was alerted to the fire a little before 4pm at Block 424, Tampines Street 41.
When the firefighters arrived at the scene, black smoke was seen coming from a flat on the second storey.
There was no one in the unit at the time and the fire was extinguished with a water jet.
No injuries were reported and the case is under investigation.
TNP understands that residents from eight neighbouring units on the second and third storeys were evacuated.
A domestic helper from Myanmar, Madam Eieishwe, 42, was in a unit above. She said: "I smelled the burning smell before I saw dark smoke coming from below our kitchen window, so I ran out with the two children and their piano teacher. The girl was crying because she was scared."
A resident from the opposite end of the corridor on the third storey, Madam Rosie Leow, 65, said: "Our door was closed, but the smell was so strong. We knew about the fire only when the police told us to evacuate. We never expected it to be so serious."
Mr Armand has been living alone in the flat for 13 years.
His cats are his pride and joy, and he wondered if he could have done more to try and save Pete.
He said: "I made a few desperate calls to a few vets, but they refused to come because they don't do house calls.
"Maybe if I had taken him to the vet, maybe Pete might have survived."