It took stallholders years, and in some cases decades, to build up their businesses from scratch at Block 493, Jurong West Street 41.
Some served delicious hawker fare while others provided residents with essential items. But in the early hours of Oct 11, their lives took a drastic turn after flames engulfed the wet market and coffee shop, razing the building to the ground. Now, only skeletal stall fronts and a collapsed roof remain. The blaze also damaged an adjacent coffee shop at Block 494, with witnesses reporting as many as three explosions and a fire that rose up to two storeys high.
About 300 residents evacuated the neighbouring blocks in one of Singapore's worst fires in recent years. A 41-year-old man was charged with committing mischief by fire on Oct 15. Lim Ying Siang allegedly set fire to styrofoam boxes at the market at about 3am on Oct 11.
Demolition work on Block 493 started last Wednesday and it is expected to take about three weeks.
In the days following the incident, Jurong GRC MP Ang Wei Neng and various agencies stepped in to help the 51 affected stallholders, such as by giving them an emergency relief fund of $500 each. A temporary market will be ready before Chinese New Year, although rebuilding a new permanent market is expected to take more than a year. Two weeks on, while some stallholders have started exploring options to restart their businesses, others have found it hard to move on due to their age or lack of savings.
We speak to three who have been affected.
Stall is gone but she visits site every day
Almost every day for the last decade, Madam Haw Mui Eng, has woken at about 5am to travel by bus to the coffee shop at Block 493, where she sold up to 500 bowls of fishball noodles until the afternoon.
When the 47-year-old started 493 Fishball Noodles with her husband in 2006, she wanted to make use of the skills she picked up as a hawker assistant to provide for her two sons, now aged 21 and 23.
Distraught family determined to reopen stall nearby
When he was a teenager, Mr Soh Chun Wee ate chicken chop almost every day for several weeks as his dad tried to perfect the recipe.
Twelve years ago, his father, Mr Soh Chin Soon, had just started running his halal Western food stall at the Block 493 coffee shop in Jurong West Street 41.
Getting by on wages at supermarket
Madam Teo Ai Yoke was working the midnight shift at a supermarket at Block 491, Jurong West Street 41 when she heard a commotion outside.
Rushing out, the 65-year-old's heart sank upon seeing the coffee shop and wet market at Block 493 in flames.