Hoarder climbs through window to get into Hougang flat: Clutter even worse after 2022 fire

The New Paper
Jul 3, 2023

Neighbours had already witnessed an elderly man fleeing the flat with his "wheelchair on fire" last year. Now they're spectators to a man crawling into the same flat through a window.

The flat, located in Block 682, Hougang Ave 4, had caught fire on July 1 last year. The man was warded in hospital for smoke inhalation, reported Shin Min Daily News.

A report of the 2022 fire.

Residents who were interviewed by the Chinese evening daily had also pointed out that the flat belonged to a hoarder who kept hundreds of cardboard boxes along the stairway.

It's a year later and not much has changed.

A 62-year-old woman, surnamed Zhang, a neighbour of the elderly man, told Shin Min that the man's family members had come to clean up the place after the fire.

But residents say the hoarding resumed in March this year and was worse than before, with the items spilling out onto the corridor and stacked up against the man's front door.

Reporters who went by the flat observed that it would be impossible for anyone to enter or exit the unit, and saw that a window facing the corridor was open.

One neighbour shared that while the wheelchair-bound man has not been seen following the fire last year, his younger brother still lives in the flat.

Madam Zhang described how with the doorway obstructed, the man would usually enter his flat through the window by placing the chair along the corridor and climbing up on it.

Inside the home, the flat was strewn with plastic bags, clothes, newspapers and other items. A supermarket trolley full of cardboard boxes and plastic bags, along with a red plastic chair was also spotted at the staircase landing beside the unit.

"The uncle's home is filled with junk, and there's often a foul smell emitting from the unit. My husband and I have to wear a mask when we step out of our home," said Madam Zhang.

"He's not a karang guni (rag-and-bone man), why does he have to collect so much rubbish?"

She recalled how she and her husband had got into several altercations with the man since the start of the year when the police had to be called in.

"One time the uncle scattered potting soil along the corridor. When we confronted him, he not only hurled insults at us but also threatened us by saying that he will stab my husband," said Madam Zhang.

She said that the neighbour's behaviour has severely impacted their family's day-to-day activities and her sister had advised them to move out until the issue is resolved.

Another neighbour interviewed by Shin Min shared that many residents on the same floor were worried about the safety hazard that the items pose and that history would repeat itself.

Said a 76-year-old neighbour, surnamed Tan: "I have limited mobility. If there's a fire, how can I escape quickly?"

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