Family lives amid clutter, cockroaches in two Jurong West flats
Family is poor, refuses to throw away anything from two Jurong West flats
The old man and his elderly daughter sat in the dimly lit and crowded living room, amid soggy cardboard scraps, heaps of plastic bottles, loose cables and an altar with open flames.
Scores of cockroaches scurried across the items. There were 50 cockroaches in one plastic bag and another 15 in a metal cup.
Half a dozen crawled around an open pot of cooked rice on a counter top.
Neighbours said the family, consisting of the man, Mr Lim Lye Soon, 83, his daughter, Ms Lim Siew Tin, 52, and his son, Mr Lim Tian Wah, 49, have been living like this in their four-room flat on the ninth storey of Block 919 in Jurong West for years.
Two other sons, Mr Lim Thien Seng, 53, and Mr Lim Tuan Huat, 56, who is bedridden, live in another flat next door. It is equally cluttered and filthy.
All the siblings are believed to be Institute of Mental Health patients. Mr Lim's wife and another daughter have died.
Ms Lim and her father work as rag-and-bone collectors.
Everything in the house, she said, belongs to them.
"My father keeps bringing things in," said Ms Lim.
"Wherever we feel like cleaning, we will clean. When the cockroaches die, we just sweep them up because they become smelly."
Mr Lim Thien Seng was singing and dancing in his home when The New Paper visited the flats yesterday.
Neighbours told The New Paper that cockroaches have been flying from the Lim family's flats into their homes.
Miss Ang Li Chang, 27, who lives next door, said: "Insects and cockroaches have been flying through the windows and from the kitchen."
A housewife, who wanted to be known only as Madam Sani, 46, and who lives in one of the units below, said: "I close my windows because if I open them, cockroaches will fly in."
Neighbours said they dread walking past the flats.
Said Madam Sani: "The flats are very smelly and the floor is all black. When I walk outside, I have to hold my breath."
Another neighbour, who wanted to be known only as Madam Goh, 58, a retiree, put it bluntly: "Their house is dirtier than a rubbish dump."
Some were sympathetic, but they did not know how to help.
Madam Maggie Yeo, 69, a retiree who lives on the same floor as the Lims, said: "The family is poor, so we are okay (with how they are)."
Miss Ang said the flats became messy after the mother died about six years ago.
Mr Neo Swee Eng, 56, chairman of Nanyang Zone 1 Residents' Committee, said the committee has been helping the Lims for almost 10 years, including getting Community Care assistance for them.
But it was unable to do anything else for them.
Mr Neo: "When we went to their flats, they were not willing to throw away anything."
All this changed on July 16.
A resident called the police to inform them about a man who seemed to be lost.
Staff Sergeant Koh Seo Kuan, 27, who responded to the call, found the elderly Mr Lim trying to force a metal cabinet and two bags of clothes into a lift in a nearby block.
The police officer asked him for his identity card but he did not have it on him.
He said he knew his way home and so she followed him.
SSG Koh was taken aback when she saw his flat.
She said: "I had the shock of my life. The place was not fit for people to live."
SSG Koh tried to persuade Mr Lim to remove a large pile of cardboard, but he refused.
She then spoke to SSG Denyse Young, who alerted grassroots and government organisations.
Yesterday, these agencies organised a massive clean-up.
Police and town council members spent two hours - from 2.30pm to 4.30pm - clearing Mr Lim's flat.
They filled five large and 10 medium-sized boxes to the brim, but that was after they had cleared just "30 per cent" of the flat.
A private company has been engaged to continue cleaning and clearing both flats over the weekend.
They will also be fumigating the units.
Other cases of hoarding
A 66-year-old woman's hoarding habit got so out of hand that cockroaches invaded the home of the family next door.
A video of National Environment Agency officers spraying hundreds of cockroaches with insecticide went viral.
A 55-year-old woman and her 20-year-old son hoarded so much that their rubbish spilled into another unit two storeys below, which belonged to the woman's 91-year-old mother.
When the authorities tried to clear the flat, the pair created such a scene that both were arrested.
A total of 10.5 tonnes of trash was cleared.
A 71-year-old hoarder's junk filled his bedroom to the point where he could sleep only in the living room.
Outside the flat, the corridor was cluttered with bottles, chairs and plastic bags with flies circling.
A hoarder, who was in his 50s, was found dead among his clutter after he had not been seen for a week.
Having filled his storeroom and three bedrooms within a year, a man had to climb over mounds of items to get to his kitchen. It took 14 volunteers 10 hours to clear his four-room flat.