Taxi bursts into flames, causes CTE tunnel closure

[UPDATE at 4pm: adding statement from ComfortDelGro]

A taxi that caught fire in a tunnel on the Central Expressway (CTE) on Tuesday morning and forced its closure caused a massive jam that stretched all the way to Ang Mo Kio.

The Comfort Hyundai Sonata taxi was headed toward the Cairnhill Road exit when it first caught fire in the Kampong Java tunnel just after 10am, according to the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF).

Taxi operator ComfortDelGro said the driver was ferrying two passengers when he saw white smoke wafting from the back of his taxi. He then pulled over at the road shoulder, alighted from the taxi with his passengers, and called the police, but shortly after he did so, he saw sparks and his cab caught fire.

"We are thankful that our driver and his passengers escaped unhurt," said ComfortDelGro spokesperson Tammy Tan. "We are in contact with them and are ready to help where needed," she added.

Tan said the taxi operator will be investigating the cause of the fire alongside the vehicle's manufacturers to prevent any future occurrence of similar incidents.

Spokespersons for the SCDF told Yahoo! Singapore that the cab was found on the road shoulder, about 50m into the tunnel, and that its driver had exited his vehicle before firefighters arrived.

No injuries were reported and the fire was extinguished within 15 minutes, added the spokesperson.

Eyewitness accounts detailed that the tunnel quickly filled with thick smoke when the fire occurred, and drivers were forced to move slower from the reduced visibility.

Undergraduate Rachel Quah was en route to school when she encountered the accident and took the photograph above.

Her father, Alfred, who was driving the car at the time, told Yahoo! Singapore they could feel the heat as they passed the burning taxi.

"The traffic was clawing... you could only see the vehicle in front of you," he said. "Most of us switched on our headlights and hazard lights to help each other (see better)," he added.

Commenting on Yahoo! Singapore's Facebook page, user Emily Ng said she was driving past when she saw fire emerging from the windows of the taxi.

"Really worried about the driver. A really smoky and scary drive through the tunnel!" she added.

Another reader, Lim Charles, said he was driving behind the taxi in the tunnel.

"It looked like a scene out of Mission Impossible," he wrote.

The CTE tunnel to Kampong Java was temporarily closed for about two hours while the Land Transport Authority conducted systems checks. It was reopened again at about 1245pm.