July 25, 2022

‘I will never forget that day’: After woman’s HDB flat caught fire, her dad died of cancer on same day

By brit

SINGAPORE – After a fire broke out in Ms Noraini Halik’s four-room Housing Board flat in Jurong last month, thick black soot covered most of her house and her kitchen was burnt to a cinder.

But that was not all that broke her heart.

The 54-year-old housewife lost the chance to say goodbye to her father for the last time.

“I wanted to talk to my father about the fire but I couldn’t. By the time I rushed to the hospital, my father had died,” she said, adding that the 84-year-old had lung cancer.

“I will never forget that day,” she added. The doctors had warned the family that he was not doing well but she had to deal with the aftermath of the fire.

One month on, Ms Noraini sits at a small square table near the lift outside her fifth-floor flat from about 8am to 6pm every day to supervise the renovation works.

Most of the interior has been restored – the smell of smoke that lingered for three weeks replaced by that of paint.

Items such as sofas and curtains that were smothered with soot were thrown out. The rest are crowded in the middle of rooms or line the corridor outside the flat.

The kitchen, walls scorched and completely empty, is the only reminder of that day.

Her husband Azlee Sulaman, 54, said he does not earn much as a warehouseman. To cover the renovation cost of $26,000, their two children, aged 26 and 29, and their partners chipped in, and also raised funds through Instagram.

Mr Azlee, who is thankful to more than 500 people who donated, said: “Within just three to four days, a lot of people donated. This is what being Singaporean means I think.”

He plans to buy fire extinguishers and fire insurance for the flat, as well as change the wrought-iron window grilles to ones that can be opened so it will be easier to escape in an emergency.

When the fire broke out in the morning on June 13, Ms Noraini was in her room with the door closed.

She said she cannot recall what the fire was like because she dashed out with her son and grandson without looking back, but the state of the flat after the blaze is as clear as day in her mind.

“My kitchen. Everything was gone. The living room was also covered with soot. All black,” she added. “It was horrible.”