SINGAPORE – Last Friday (Apr 10) the flat of a 33-year old single mother of three, Tanti Yani Zaini, caught fire. Ms Zaini, who lives on the 10th floor of a Housing and Development Board two-bedroom flat in Sengkang, was caught completely unaware when the fire broke out.
According to TODAY, Ms Zaini had said, “I was just about to take a shower when I heard my brother shout, ‘Fire! Fire in the master bedroom!’ The first thing that came to my mind was my son. He had just taken a shower and was changing in the room.” Ms Zaini, who was undressed at the time, threw on the first thing she could and opened the door of her master bathroom.
Ms Zaini’s brother and girlfriend happened to be visiting at the time, so when she opened her bathroom door, she saw that her brother had taken hold of her 5-year old son, who was still not dressed from his shower, and taken him out of the master bedroom.
According to todayonline.com, the very first thing she noticed was her teddy bear stuffed toy up in flames, a toy she described as “the same size as my five-year-old son.” She also shared, “The fire was quickly spreading to the rest of the room.” Ms Zaini also explained, “I could not leave my house with just my towel on. Luckily, I remembered I had dry clothes at my service yard. I quickly got dressed, grabbed some of my son’s clothes and dressed him. By then, we started seeing black smoke.”
Meanwhile in the kitchen, her brother’s girlfriend, 23-year old Qira Yong, was preparing dinner when the fire broke out. Thankfully all six of them, including Zaini’s 8-year old twin daughters, were able to flee the apartment while Ms Yong dialed the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) for emergency assistance.
The fire has come at the worse time with Ms Zaini already trying to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic just like the rest of Singapore’s citizens. Not only did she recently lose her job in the early part of March as a zone coordinator for an information technology company, but having no job and no real means to support her family, plus attending to the home-based learning of her children, she has been under a lot of stress.
Although the fire only took 10 minutes to extinguish, it still managed to ravage the entire apartment, leaving Ms Zaini and her children to lose all of their belongings. As explained in todayonline.com, “My important documents are gone; my kids’ too. What we are left with is basically nothing.” Aside from the TV and the dining table, everything else was reduced to rubble and soot.
Although Ms Zaini and her children were given temporary shelter for two months in a one-bedroom flat in the Jalan Kayu area, it is basically unfurnished aside from a table and chairs they were given to use. In the meantime, she will have to find a way to pay for the repairs of her own flat since her insurance will only pay for the renovations to the structure. Everything else is at her own expense.
In light of what happened, the family members and closest friends of Ms Zaini shared what happened on Facebook and Instagram, asking those that were willing to help out a single mother in any way they can.
Ms Zaini’s brother’s girlfriend, Ms Yong also told TODAY, “The post went viral. People were sharing and reposting it. We received offers for mattresses, furniture, bedsheets, clothes, food and home appliances. We have even received almost S$20,000 in funds donated through (fund transfer service) PayNow.”
Aside from the generous contributions from strangers, many of whom left items just outside of Ms Zaini’s burnt flat, some contractors have also offered up their services to renovate her flat at zero cost on her part. Ms Yong also shared, “So many people reached out. It got so overwhelming that I had to start rejecting these offers. I asked them to just pray for us. That is more than enough.”
Member of Parliament for Sengkang West, Dr Lam Pin Min, took to Facebook to say, “I visited the site together with some grassroots leaders and we were able to provide assistance and support to the affected family. I was heartened to see the community rally behind the affected family, offering them drinks, snacks and even footwear for the children. Thankfully, there were no casualties or major damage to the block, all thanks to SCDF’s swift response.”
Despite being “traumatised” by the incident, TODAY also reported Ms Zaini as saying, “But I feel blessed to see the amount of love and blessings I have been receiving. There are no words to describe how I feel. The community has come forward to provide so much help.”
She continued, “Ramadan will not be the same this year, but we are still happy that we get to celebrate it together. Despite losing material things, we have not lost any lives. We are all still alive. My kids are still here with me, so I am still blessed to have them and we can still have a celebration in a small home.”
Although the flat renovations are on hold amidst the current circuit breaker measures, Ms Zaini is hopeful, explaining, “Dr Lam said he will see what he can do to expedite the process. I understand that we all have to adhere to the circuit breaker. As long as I have a place to live with my kids and they are settled down and able to do their home-based learning under a roof, I am already happy. We can work the rest of it out later.” /TISG
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