A Chinese male security guard was sent to hospital after a major five-hour blaze at the National University of Singapore (NUS) on Friday afternoon.
Firefighters put out the blaze at about 7:10pm, approximately five hours after smoke was first reported coming out of Engineering Block E3A.
The injured security guard, a 51-year-old contract worker, has been sent to the National University Hospital for smoke inhalation. Three Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officers were also hospitalised for heat exhaustion.
According to the SCDF, the fire involved the contents of a research laboratory located on the ground floor of the seven-storey building. Exterior ducting mounted on the side of the building, which was connected to another ducting on the roof top, also caught fire, sending thick clouds of smoke into the sky.
SCDF said their firefighters had to penetrate into the heavily smoke-logged laboratory, which stored chemicals, to locate the seat of the fire. Windows on the first two floors were also broken to allow for ventilation and nine water jets were deployed to combat the blaze.
The University's campus security was alerted and the SCDF activated at 2:25pm when smoke was first detected on the roof of the Engineering block. An NUS spokesperson said that all occupants in the building and the surrounding buildings were evacuated immediately.
[See slideshow of the fire here]
Students in the area reported seeing dark clouds of smoke billowing from the top of the building from 2:15pm.
Fourth-year engineering student Benjamin Kho was working on the fourth floor of the building when the fire alarm was triggered.
“We were asked to come down and people who were near the windows saw smoke,” he told Yahoo! Singapore.
“Some (of my friends) thought it was a chemical spill at first, and that the thick smoke we were seeing could have been chemical fumes... until we saw a little bit of fire from the side of the building and at the first floor,” the 24-year-old said.
Kho, who is on his last day of internship at the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS), also explained that the first floor of Block E3A consists mainly of laboratories, and given that the fire started from there, it was still possible that the smoke might consist of chemical fumes.
“We just had a fire drill less than a month ago, so when we heard the alarm this time, we figured it couldn’t be another one,” he added.
Fauzan Tarmin, 27, a quality assurance supervisor who tests gas pipes at SERIS, said the fire followed exhaust pipes which could be why the sides of the building were charred.
According to Ashadul Hoque, a 32-year-old computer engineer who was working on the sixth storey of block E3A when the fire alarm went off, the affecting building contained “millions of dollars worth of equipment and chemicals for producing solar energy cells”.
The affected building and its surrounding areas have been cordoned off.
Investigations into the cause of the fire are ongoing.