Primary 6 pupil loses textbooks in HDB flat fire a week before PSLE

On a happier note, the family's two cats are safe and sound.

Shermaine Ang and Siti Sarah

Sep 25, 2021

SINGAPORE - A Primary 6 pupil escaped a fire in his seventh-storey home at Block 13 Marsiling Lane on Thursday (Sept 23), but lost his textbooks and notes days before the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) was due to start.

Fortunately, the family - and their two cats - are safe and sound.

A student welfare officer at Qihua Primary School, where the boy goes to school, told Chinese-language evening daily Lianhe Wanbao that the books were in the bedroom which caught fire. The PSLE starts on Sept 30.

The boy's father, who did not wish to be named, said he came home to the blaze and had time to rescue only one of his cats from under the sofa before running out of the burning flat. His son had already evacuated from the unit.

"I later asked SCDF to help rescue my other cat," said the father of five.

On Friday, the home owners were busy packing their belongings to move out of their charred home to the new flat the Housing Board had allocated to them. Workers were helping to move bags of trash out of the flat.

The mother declined to be interviewed, saying they were in a rush to move out. "My kids are still in school now, we have to quickly go and unlock the door for them in the new place," she said.

The family had spent the previous night at the residents' committee centre.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) evacuated some 80 residents from the building on Thursday.

Madam Au Wai Yong, a neighbour living on the same floor as the flat that caught fire, said in Mandarin: "I was alone at home when I saw thick black smoke with a strong, choking smell filling my home. I thought my electrical appliances had caught fire and my house was burning.

The 84-year-old learnt it was the corner unit where the blaze had started when the police knocked on her door to tell her to leave her flat.

Madam Au, whose husband was at work when the fire broke out, said she could not go as she has problems walking and uses a stick.

The police had cordoned off the lift and the floor was slippery with water and ash, she said. "I was scared I would fall so I stayed put. My next-door neighbour, who is elderly, also didn't evacuate."

Student Luthfi Naufal, 18, who lives on the eighth floor, said he, too, tried to grab his cat before he ran out but it had gone into hiding. When he returned home, he found it unscathed but covered in black ash.

SCDF is investigating the cause of the fire.

One of the affected family’s children at the void deck with their cats after the fire. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

An MP for Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC, Mr Zaqy Mohamad, said in a Facebook post on Friday: "The grassroots team worked with the agencies to help stabilise the situation."

He said the family affected received household necessities and cleaning equipment from volunteers in the community.

"While their flat is being restored, HDB has also helped to provide interim housing," added Mr Zaqy.

Qihua Primary School's student welfare officer added: "The school will be here to provide our student with school uniforms and classes, and supplies such as notebooks and writing utensils to support him during this critical period."