Bukit Batok SMC Member of Parliament (MP) Murali Pillai has finally broken his silence over the fire hose reel issue at Block 210A Bukit Batok Street 21.
SCDF firefighters found that the fire hose reel cabinets at the block were padlocked and discovered that there was no water supply for the hose reel when they broke one of the padlocks.
The problems with the fire hose reel are said to have delayed the rescue attempt and two male occupants of the flat climbed out onto the 13th-storey ledge from their kitchen window while another occupant locked herself in the bathroom as the fire built up. All three occupants were hospitalised after the SCDF eventually put out the fire using water from their emergency vehicles.
Breaking his silence on the Nov 1 fire that broke out at a 13th-storey unit at the HDB block nearly two weeks ago, Mr Pillai In a Facebook post published yesterday (15 Nov), he apologised and revealed that two town council staff will face disciplinary action due to the incident.
He apologised and revealed that two town council staff will face disciplinary action due to the incident.
Acknowledging that he is politically accountable to Bukit Batok residents as their elected representative, Mr Pillai said that he was there at the scene when the fire was raging and that his immediate focus was on helping the affected residents.
Perhaps alluding to opposition politician Chee Soon Juan’s repeated calls for Mr Pillai to act transparently and explain the facts of the matter to the residents over the past few weeks and his correspondence with the SCDF asking them to take action, Mr Pillai claimed that the SCDF began immediately looking into the matter out of its own accord.
He said it was not because of others who drew attention to the matter, and that he was concerned himself about the issues the SCDF had raised.
Providing an account of his actions following the fire, Mr Pillai said: “I then channelled our energies to help the affected families staying on the 14th and the 15th floors of the block. They were not able to use their toilets, draw water, etc because the service pipes were damaged by the fire on the 13th floor.
“Through the coordination of our community volunteers, HDB & Town Council, we managed to restore services in record time. We distributed emergency relief packages for affected families. We also monitored Mdm Goh and her family members closely.
“My community volunteers and I paid them visits to hospital. Mdm Goh’s husband was subsequently discharged. Her son transferred to the High Dependency ward after a few days. Mdm Goh, however, was still in ICU. I also met her 2 other children whilst there.
“Mdm Goh’s family members expressed appreciation for the help they received, especially from HDB. Mdm Goh, whom I know personally, still figures in my prayers every day.”
Asserting that individual town council officers and the contractor responsible for maintaining the fire hoses, JKeart Pte Ltd, are responsible for the two issues the SCDF raised, Mr Pillai shared that JKeart provided evidence that the hose reel was in working condition on the day of the fire incident. He said:
“Dealing with the water supply issue, JKeart Pte Ltd, the contractor responsible for maintaining the hose reels, insisted that there was water supply to the hose reel in question at the material time. They provided to Town Council a video of the hose reel in question in working condition on the same day of the fire incident.
“This led to Town Council meeting SCDF officers earlier this week to provide what JKeart showed. After consulting SCDF, Town Council issued a statement accepting SCDF’s position on the matter. It is now investigating JKeart’s assertions.”
Regarding the incident, the SCDF revealed that it issued Fire Hazard Abatement Notices to the JCTC following its inspection and that the Town Council has since rectified the non-compliances that were found.
While Mr Pillai commended the actions of the firefighters who put out the blaze and rescued the flat residents, at the time of the incident he did not make further comment on the Fire Abatement Notices, why the fire hose reels were padlocked and why there was no water supply to the hose during the night of the incident.
Jurong-Clementi Town Council came out to say that the fire hose reels at Block 201A had been working two weeks before the fire. Despite this, he said that the town council which oversees Bukit Batok “accept[s] the SCDF’s finding that the hose in question was not working on the day of the fire.”
As for the padlocking issue that made it difficult to access the fire hose reel in time of need, Mr Pillai explained that the town council has identified two officers as being responsible for “directing the padlocking of the fire hose compartments by using small padlocks that can be dislodged using force.”
Sharing that the padlocks were installed to prevent the misuse and vandalism of the fire hoses, Mr Pillai acknowledged that this was a “mistake on their part.” The officers, who have admitted to their mistakes, will face disciplinary action brought on by the town council management.
Promising to strengthen the reliability of the fire safety system in his ward, Mr Pillai apologised and reiterated that he is accountable to residents for both issues:
“I am clear in my mind that, as your elected representative, I am accountable to you for both issues. These incidents should not have happened and, for that, I must apologise.
“I will work with my elected & appointed Town Councillors to review this case and ensure that the fire safety system is strengthened to ensure its reliability. I expect the Town Council to make a separate statement on the steps taken separately.”
Read his post in full here:
Dear Friends,You may have seen my FB posting on 1 Nov 2019 commending our brave SCDF officers in fighting the fire and…