Jem mall closes for checks after first-floor ceiling collapses

The first-floor ceiling of Jem mall in Jurong East collapsed on Wednesday night. (Photo courtesy of Toh Ee Ming)

[UPDATE on 19 Sept at 2:30pm: adding statements from Lend Lease, BCA]

In light of a large portion of its first floor ceiling collapsing on Wednesday night, the new Jem shopping mall in Jurong East will remain closed until its safety is confirmed, said its owner and developer Lend Lease.

The Australian company, which also is responsible for 313 @ Somerset, Parkway Parade and PoMo on Selegie Road, said it is "investigating the cause of the incident and are working closely with the authorities" on the matter.

After about 10pm on Wednesday, a 50-metre stretch of the mall's first-floor ceiling collapsed, forcing staff to evacuate its shoppers.

Three women received outpatient medical attention at National University Hospital for minor injuries, said the Singapore Civil Defence Force, who was alerted about the incident at 10:14pm.

In a three-paragraph statement, a spokesperson for the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) said the 50m-by-4m stretch of ceiling that collapsed was caused by a leak in a water pipe.

The weight of the water, which collected on the false ceiling panels, was a likely cause of its collapse, the spokesperson said. "The structural integrity of the building is not affected," she added.

BCA says it has instructed Lend Lease to close the affected area and check its false ceilings to investigate the nature of the collapse. It added that Lend Lease has also asked its consultants to check its water pipes for any other signs of leakage.

Third year communications undergraduate Toh Ee Ming, 21, was on the second floor at clothing store H&M with her friends at about 10:15pm when she noticed a commotion and a lot of people rushing downstairs.

"The panels had fallen, and there were a lot of pipes on the floor and wires dangling (from the ceiling)," she told Yahoo Singapore, adding that the section of ceiling that had fallen took up a whole walkway that spanned approximately three stores in length. "We couldn't access the area and were at a spot where we couldn't see properly which shops were affected… we were told to evacuate very quickly."

She added that the mood among the crowd wasn't panicky, however — in fact, people were "quite excited" by what had happened.

"The staff kept raising their voices at us to stop taking photos and leave quickly, but a lot of people continued to stand there and take photos," Toh said. "A lot of people were quite excited by what had happened; they were joking about how the place was flooding and they had to run for their lives!"

The floor was flooded from water that was spraying from what appeared to be burst pipes that fell together with the ceiling panels, she added, noting that nearby shops such as Fossil and The Coffee Bean were affected.

"I saw the staff still there trying to salvage the situation, and some tried to close their doors to prevent more water from going in," Toh added. "I didn't hear any alarms or any announcements, just the sound of water splashing — it wasn't chaotic; people were laughing and joking (at the situation)!"

Huang Shu Qun, 24, also a third year communications undergraduate was at the food court on the top floor of the mall when the first-floor ceiling collapsed.

"I heard the alarm go off and the blinds coming down on the escalators. The security staff then told us to stay clear of the escalators and make our way down the fire evacuation route via the stairs," he told Yahoo Singapore.

"We went to the fire evacuation map and followed the suggested route, but the staircase we were supposed to use was under construction, so we couldn't use it,” added Huang.

He also said that the workers there told them to return to the food court, which they did for about five to 10 minutes, until someone from the mall’s management told them to take the stairs despite it being under construction.

“Oddly enough, the main entrance was still open despite the staff chasing people out, and we went in that way to take a look at what was happening. We went in a short distance and saw that the floor was flooded, just about 10 to 15 metres in,” added Huang.

Here’s a video of the aftermath of the collapse by Instagram user gordonmng:

Naomi Hoe Si Wei with twitter handle @hoehoemistletoe said she heard the fire alarm ring, followed by screams.

It’s not the first time that the mall faced safety problems. Its official opening in June this year was delayed by four days due to issues with fire safety permits for the tenants.

Just last month, three people suffered minor burns when a deep fryer at the mall's FairPrice Xtra store caught fire.

A car also caught fire in the mall's carpark last month.

- Additional reporting by Jeanette Tan and Luna Pham

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