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Darishini Thiyagarajan
Friday, Aug 15, 2014

Singapore

IMM fire: Shoppers trapped and confused

The Straits Times | Darishini Thiyagarajan | Friday, Aug 15, 2014

SINGAPORE - A woman had to be rushed to hospital for smoke inhalation after a fire at the IMM shopping mall in Jurong.

The fire occurred at the Ah May foodcourt on level three of the shopping mall.

A spokesman for the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said the building's sprinkler system had extinguished the fire. But there was confusion for some shoppers on level two.

Mr Jordan Leu, 50, said he panicked when the fire triggered the shutters at electronics store, Best Denki, sealing the store.

He had just finished breakfast with a friend, and was shopping when the fire alarm started ringing and he smelled smoke. Mr Leu's friend managed to get out before the shutters closed but Mr Leu was stuck.

A mix of both glass and metal, the shutters are installed around the escalators that are a few metres away from the stores.

PANIC

Mr Leu said: "I was in a state of panic while being trapped, and so were the others because it seemed like air couldn't enter or leave." He and a few other customers then searched for an exit. They said they asked around in the store but nobody could offer the right directions.

"They did not know what was going on, and so we were trapped there for about ten to fifteen minutes before I found a door at the back that was open," said Mr Leu.

When the fire alarm is sounded, the shutters are activated to keep shoppers away from the fire, said IMM marketing communications manager Novia Yeo.

SCDF said two fire engines, a Red Rhino, two ambulances and one support vehicle were sent to the scene.

While a woman in her 40s was taken to the National University Hospital (NUH), two other men declined.

In a media statement, Ms Yeo said the fire had broken out at about 11.15am, and was caused by an overheated fryer in one of the food stalls.

She added that the sprinkler system had managed to extinguish the fire before the SCDF arrived at the scene.

Shutters stop fire from spreading

IMM has automatic shutters - better known as the fire-rated shutters - that are activated to roll down in the event of a fire.

Ms Novia Yeo, marketing communications manager - IMM, CapitaMalls Asia, said the shutters are part of the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) requirement.

When asked about staff members guiding shoppers to safety after the shutters have rolled down, she declined to comment. An SCDF spokesman said fire-rated shutters roll down when a fire alarm in the building goes off.

This is to create a segregation between two spaces so that the fire and the smoke can be prevented from spreading.

A metre-wide door is usually located at the side of the shutter, through which people can exit the area, and there are usually enough exits around the building to avoid people getting trapped.


This article was first published on August 13, 2014.
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