20-year-old found dead under 2m of debris at Tanjong Pagar building demolition site

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Aqil Hamzah and Andrew Wong
The Straits Times
June 15, 2023

A worker was found dead under the rubble after part of the Fuji Xerox Towers building in Tanjong Pagar collapsed during demolition works.

Rescuers found the body of the 20-year-old worker, an Indian national, late on Thursday night after more than six hours of search and rescue operations. His body was pinned under 2m of debris.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said in a statement: “Following an intensive search operation, a worker who was earlier reported missing was sighted to be pinned under a collapsed reinforced concrete structure at about 6pm. The worker had no pulse and was not breathing.”

Rescue workers had to cut, break and dig through the rubble, but the weight of the concrete slab, estimated to be at least 50 tonnes, complicated efforts.

The body was recovered at about 9.45pm.

Search and rescue efforts are expected to continue into the night to ensure no one else is trapped under the rubble, said Colonel Firoz Ramjan, commander, 1st SCDF Division.

SCDF officers arrived at the site earlier in the day after being alerted to the incident at about 2pm. Eleven emergency vehicles and 70 officers were deployed to find the worker, including firefighters, rescue workers and emergency medical workers.

SCDF officers from Marina Bay Fire Station, rescue specialists from the elite Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team or Dart, and two search dogs were part of the search efforts, an SCDF spokesman said.

The operation concluded on Friday morning after it was ascertained no one else was trapped underneath the debris, the SCDF said in a Facebook post.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and Building and Construction Authority (BCA), in a joint statement earlier on Thursday night, said a reinforced concrete wall on the second storey – measuring about 10m long and 3.8m high – collapsed onto the street during demolition.

The statement said: “BCA has instructed the project parties to stop all construction activities and will revoke the permit for all works while investigations are ongoing. MOM has also instructed the employer of the worker to stop all works at the site.”

It added that the rest of the building has been assessed to be stable, and there are no concerns over its structural integrity.


[Final Update: Collapsed structure incident along Bernam Street] SCDF officially completed our operation around 8:00...

Posted by Singapore Civil Defence Force on Thursday, June 15, 2023

Demolition works must be planned properly for structures to be demolished systematically, the statement said. This includes having in place a demolition strategy that details the sequence of events, and demolishing from the top-down to reduce the chances of large structures collapsing.

The occupier of the worksite is Woh Hup, while the worker is employed by Aik Sun Demolition and Engineering, the statement added.

A spokesman for Woh Hup said: “We are saddened by the unfortunate incident that happened and are working closely with the relevant authorities on their investigation into the matter.

“We have expressed our condolences to the family of Aik Sun’s worker and will do our best to support them in any way we can.”

However, he was unable to comment further as investigations are ongoing.

Debris from the collapse had crashed through the construction hoarding onto Bernam Street, with cordons placed near the debris. PHOTO: ST READER

The location where the incident took place will be redeveloped into a 47 storey mixed-use development called Newport Plaza, comprising offices and a condo with 246 residential units and 198 serviced apartments.

The developer of the project is City Developments Limited, which said in a statement late on Thursday night that it is working closely with its contractors and cooperating with the authorities on the investigation.

In photos sent to The Straits Times by a reader, debris from the collapse can be seen in Bernam Street, off Anson Road. The area also appeared to have been cordoned off.

SCDF using machinery to dig and take apart the rubble. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

An SCDF Mass Decontamination Vehicle was also seen near the work site. The vehicle is usually deployed when there is a large-scale hazardous material accident and is used to decontaminate a large number of victims. It is also used to transport people who need medical attention and move equipment, said an SCDF post on Facebook.

When contacted, a representative from Aik Sun – the firm carrying out the demolition works – said it needed time to find out what caused the collapse.

In a Facebook post, Aik Sun said structural demolition of Fuji Xerox Towers began in February 2022. The Facebook post, along with all other content on the firm’s page, has since been taken down.

A representative from Aik Sun Demolition and Engineering said it needed time to ascertain the cause of the structural collapse. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Office workers in the area said they felt tremors when the building structure collapsed.

A 58-year-old man, who wanted to be known only as Mr Lim, said he was in a meeting with three colleagues when they all felt the ground shake. Their office building at 78 Shenton Way is a three-minute walk from the site.

He said: “It wasn’t prolonged enough for us to panic but at the start, it felt like an earthquake. We didn’t know what happened until we went outside and saw the site.”

Another eyewitness, who wanted to be known only as Ms Nisha, said she knew something was wrong when she saw police cars in the area. The 29-year-old works at Napolizz Pizza, across the street from Fuji Xerox Towers.

She said: “We didn’t feel any tremors because we are on the ground floor, but the tenants above us were saying they could hear a loud bang and felt shakes.

“We saw two police cars arriving shortly to block the road, and officers running towards the construction site. That was when we figured out something was wrong.”

She added that the air was filled with dust and smoke.

At about 5.25pm, police cordons were put up in the area. An overhead bridge that leads to the demolition site was also blocked off.

  • Additional reporting by Yugesh Kannan

The Straits Times

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