Gas leak blast rips hole in wall of Monk’s Hill flat, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Gas leak blast rips hole in wall of Monk’s Hill flat

A change from his usual routine may have saved retiree S. H. Lee’s life on March 20.

Minutes after returning home from church activities at about 11pm that night, the 76-year-old was jolted by the sound of a blast from the kitchen of his black-and-white flat in the Monk’s Hill area.

Mr Lee, who was in the living room at the time, rushed to his kitchen to find a gaping hole in one of its walls and the floor littered with large chunks of concrete and debris.

“My usual routine after returning home from church is to make a cup of coffee or tea in the kitchen,” the retired businessman told The Straits Times over the phone on March 22.

“I’m extremely lucky I did not do it that night... I am lucky to be alive.”

In photographs Mr Lee showed ST, damaged kitchen fixtures such as wooden cabinets can be seen. One of the concrete slabs was bigger than the trolley used to cart it away.

Mr Lee said he told the building’s maintenance team about the blast, but did not seek help from any other organisation as it was late and he did not feel he was in any further danger.

He said he did not smell any gas leak, and saw neither fire nor smoke, only dust from the blast.

The next morning, members of the maintenance team arrived at his first-floor unit to inspect the scene. Officers from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and the police showed up later, said Mr Lee.

The SCDF said it extinguished a fire after being alerted to a call for assistance at 426 Clemenceau Avenue North at about 10.30am on March 21.

“The fire involved a leaked gas pipe within a wall in the kitchen area of a ground-floor unit,” said SCDF.

No injuries were reported and the cause of the fire is under investigation, it added.

Chinese language news outlet Lianhe Zaobao reported that about 50 residents were evacuated from the building in the morning and took temporary shelter at a nearby community club. They returned home that afternoon.

A spokesperson for the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) said the building was structurally safe.

“Our initial assessment shows that the damage is localised and does not affect the structural integrity of the building as the brick wall is non-load-bearing,” said the spokesperson.

As a precaution, BCA said it advised the building owner to engage an appropriate and qualified person to further assess the damage and recommend rectifications.

Mr Lee said he has been renting the unit for about four years, where he now lives alone.

The building was built by the British during the post-war era and is now a state property managed by Knight Frank.

He said that in mid-December, he noticed a slight bulge in the kitchen wall that collapsed on March 20, and had informed the building’s maintenance team then.

After what happened on March 20, Mr Lee said he felt fortunate he escaped harm.

“I was sitting on a time bomb,” he said.

Responding to ST’s queries, a Singapore Land Authority (SLA) spokesperson said the authority is assisting SCDF in its investigations.

Following the incident, SLA said they worked with the provider to shut down the gas pipe supply for the entire property at about 11am on March 21.

“The time frame for the restoration of gas supply has not been determined,” said SLA, adding that this is pending the outcome of the investigations.

The affected eight-storey block has 64 units, 62 of which are occupied.

Knight Frank will help affected tenants where required, added SLA.