Monday, October 15, 2007


There are only narrow spaces between the bunk beds, which are small rooms created by putting in partitions.

With no cupboards provided, the belongings of the foreign workers - some in cardboard cartons - are piled on their beds.

And to make it more of a fire hazard, the tenants cook in their rooms.

Last week, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) conducted checks on the premises. It said it is taking action against the owner.


SCDF's public affairs director, Lieutenant-Colonel N Subhas, said: 'To change the use of premises without approval has clearly violated the fire safety rules.

'And when illegal partitions are created, it can affect the escape routes and jeopardise the quick evacuation of the occupants in times of emergencies.

'Furthermore when non-fire rated materials are used for the partitions, it could aid in the spread of a fire.'

Last month a fire swept through three ground-floor shophouse units in Hougang and killed two siblings in their 20s.

Four days later, a teenager was trapped in a second-storey Clementi flat when a fire broke out in his uncle's provision shop below. He was rescued by firefighters.

The landlord, Mr Mok, is aware that cooking in the rooms is a fire hazard.

He said he had threatened to throw away the cookers used by the tenants if they continued to cook there.

'I merely wanted them to stop doing so,' he said. 'I've not thrown away any of their cookers.'

But the tenants point out that there is no kitchen and say they can't always be eating out.

Said Mr John Gee, president of welfare group Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2): 'A lot of foreign workers choose to stay in shophouses because they are cheaper...

'But they would expect a basic, minimum standard of living which we are expected to provide in Singapore. Obviously the owner of the shophouse is not delivering his part of the deal.

'These workers can call our helpline.'

TWC2's helpline and case manager, Miss Sha Najak, said: 'The landlord is obviously making some money from the rental. He should invest some time and money to provide a good system for his tenants.'

She suggested that he put in lockers for the tenants to keep their belongings.

'And it is always safer to have a separate room for cooking,' she said.

The TWC2 hotline number is 1800-8881515.

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