Yishun fire sparks community spirit as cleaners join others to help couple

From far left: Mr Easin Mohammad, Mr Hossan Mohammad Saddam and Mr Biswas Md Wasim were among those who rushed to help a couple caught in a fire at their flat.
From far left: Mr Easin Mohammad, Mr Hossan Mohammad Saddam and Mr Biswas Md Wasim were among those who rushed to help a couple caught in a fire at their flat.PHOTO: NEE SOON TOWN COUNCIL

Three town council cleaners at work at a block in Yishun wasted no time in responding when they heard cries for help.

Mr Easin Mohammad, 27, Mr Biswas Md Wasim, 41, and their supervisor, Mr Hossan Mohammad Saddam, 30, immediately rushed up to a flat on the fourth storey which was engulfed in flames on Nov 14. Using a sledge hammer Mr Saddam grabbed on the way up, the trio forced open the metal gate of the two-room flat occupied by Mr Ismail Sanif, 53, and his wife.

Mr Saddam said: "I did not think about whether I would be injured... The only thing on my mind was that I should try to save their lives."

The trio, all Bangladeshis, were joined shortly by four Grab riders who had heard about the fire from a chat group they were part of.

With the help of a neighbour, the Grab riders managed to break down the wooden door of the flat. They were just in time to rescue Mr Ismail's wife, who was hiding from the flames in a corner of the flat, said Nee Soon Town Council chairman Derrick Goh on Facebook .

Mr Ismail, who was halfway through a shower, had climbed onto the ledge outside his toilet to escape the fire even though he was not fully dressed.

Mr Goh said the rescuers battled "thick smoke that blinded and choked them" as they helped to put out the fire.

About 40 residents evacuated themselves from the block before the Singapore Civil Defence Force was alerted at 9.45am to the fire.

By then, the fire in the kitchen was already under control but one still raged in the bedroom, said one of the Grab riders, Mr Omar Syarif, 24. "If we did not do anything, the whole flat may have burned down with two lives on the line," he added.

A Nee Soon Town Council spokesman confirmed earlier that Mr Ismail's wife was taken to Singapore General Hospital with burn injuries, while Mr Ismail was assessed for smoke inhalation but declined to be taken to hospital.

Commending Mr Ismail's neighbours, the cleaners and Grab riders for their part in the rescue, Mr Goh said he was touched by the strong community spirit shown.

Grassroots leaders are assisting the couple to make insurance claims and obtain emergency funds to rebuild their home, he added.

Preliminary investigations indicated that the fire was caused by an electric bicycle left to charge.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 23, 2020, with the headline 'Yishun fire sparks community spirit as cleaners join others to help couple'. Print Edition | Subscribe