SINGAPORE: Ten people were taken to hospital with burns on Wednesday (Feb 24), following what witnesses say was a "loud explosion" at an industrial building in Tuas.
The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said it responded to a fire at 32E Tuas Avenue 11 at about 11.25am.
A unit in the building was "smoke-logged" and firefighters wearing breathing apparatus entered the unit to locate the fire, said SCDF, adding that the fire was extinguished with two water jets.
Employees of Stars Engrg were carrying out work on an industrial mixer when an explosion occurred, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in response to questions from CNA.
Eight workers in the premises suffered burns and were taken to Singapore General Hospital (SGH), said MOM on Wednesday night.
Another two workers from an opposite unit also suffered burns and were taken to Ng Teng Fong General Hospital. They are employed by P3 Project, said MOM.
SCDF said earlier that eight people were taken to SGH for burn injuries. It noted in a Facebook post that patients who had smoke inhalation or serious burn injuries but were in a stable condition would be taken to SGH's specialised Burn Centre instead of the nearest hospital.
Mr Frankie Goh, a logistics manager at Bauer located in the next building, said he heard a "very loud explosion" at about 11.20am, followed by two smaller ones.
Thinking the explosion was from his building, he called for his colleagues to evacuate, said Mr Goh, speaking to CNA outside his building.
He then ran out of his office and saw black smoke billowing from a gaping hole in the wall of the building next door. Several workers were running out of the building screaming.
Mr Goh said his colleague saw workers with burns on their backs and legs. One of them had his head bandaged.
He then called the SCDF to report the incident. Ten minutes later, fire engines and ambulances arrived on the scene, he said. At least three ambulances took people to the hospital.
According to Mr Goh, the building houses a migrant worker dormitory among other companies.
In response to CNA's queries, MOM also said that there were fewer than 20 migrant workers staying on the site where the explosion happened.
"The employer is making separate housing arrangements for the unhurt workers. MOM is also working with the employer to ensure their wellbeing is being taken care of," said the ministry.
Photographs of the area showed smoke billowing from the building as well as multiple SCDF and police vehicles.
Videos of the incident seen by CNA showed several workers with burns and patches of skin missing from their arms, torso and back. Several of them had their clothing burned off and were seen with strips of cloth on their shoulders and legs.
When CNA visited the site at about 1pm, about 30 people were standing outside the affected building. About 15 of them appeared to be migrant workers.
An eyewitness who wanted to be known as Mr Tan said he works at a building a few blocks away from where the fire occurred. He could see the fire "just like (in) a movie", he told CNA.
According to Mr Tan, several workers came running over from another building after hearing the explosion, and tried to enter the site to help those inside.
A technician who wanted to be known as Mr Ng, 52, said he was working in the block next to where the explosion happened. He did not hear the explosion because he was wearing earplugs but was alerted by his colleagues to evacuate.
He saw the migrant workers running out of the building with burns, and spraying water on themselves.
Bangladeshi national Sohel, 31, was sleeping in a migrant worker dormitory in a unit on the third floor at the time of the explosion.
“I was sleeping, then suddenly the sound came,” he told CNA.
The explosion happened at a unit on the first floor, and the company located there manufactures insulation pipes, he added.
After hearing the noise, he woke up and ran outside, where he saw workers with burns on their legs and crying. According to Mr Sohel, the migrant workers working in that unit live in the dormitory above.
Ms Lai, who owns a company located next door at 32F, said the adjoining wall in her unit collapsed in the explosion.
“Luckily the first floor is a storage unit, nobody was there,” said the 60-year-old. Ms Lai said she did not know how much damage her unit had sustained.
SCDF said about 65 people in neighbouring units had cleared out of the building before firefighters arrived.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
ON-SITE ACCOMMODATION "NO LONGER SAFE"
In a Facebook post late on Wednesday, the Migrant Workers’ Centre (MWC) said the fire meant on-site accommodation for workers was no longer safe.
The non-governmental organisation said it had offered its emergency housing support to employers unable to relocate their workers.
MWC added that it was informed by one of the employers of the injured workers that eight of them are currently in the intensive care unit. The other employer said its two workers sustained minor injuries.