The Sunday Times, March 16,
By Philip Lee
FEVERISH rescue operations continued
throughout last night and into this morning
to reach the victims still buried under the
rubble of the six-storey Hotel New World in
Serangoon Road which collapsed like a house
of cards at 11.26 am yesterday.
Rescuers used sound detectors to pick up
faint moans and cries for help from the
Among them was a woman named Helen who had
repeatedly pleaded with rescue workers to
amputate her badly crushed legs. But she was
freed at 10.15 pm and whisked to the
Singapore General Hospital by one of the five
helicopters deployed for rescue work.
The toll at press time was one dead and
nine injured. Of the injured, seven were
women. The dead victim was an unidentified
woman. Five were later discharged. The
survivors were the only ones extricated after
more than 12 hours of difficult and delicate
A number also miraculously escaped severe
injury like a man from Johor, his wife
and teenage daughter who were pulled out
after they hurtled down together with falling
debris from the fourth level. A few others
rescued were earlier on the third or fourth
level of the hotel.
It is believed that about 100 people are
trapped under the wreck of twisted steel and
concrete slabs in Singapore's worst post-war
It is not known what the chances are of
reaching most alive as rescue attempts were
hampered by fears that too much movement
might cause further cave-ins of heavy
concrete slabs and beams. The operation could
take a few days.
Eye-witnesses said they heard an explosion
before the 67-room hotel, at the junction of
Serangoon Road and Owen Road, crashed. Police
have ruled out a bomb explosion. One theory
is that it could have been caused by a gas
The hotel, built about 15 years ago, was
popular with Indian tourists. It was formerly
known as New Serangoon Hotel until it changed
management and its name in 1984.
Its ground floor was occupied by a branch
of the Industrial and Commercial Bank which
employed 16 workers.
The hotel itself hired 26 workers.
Relatives of staff of the bank and hotel kept
vigil throughout the night in the hope that
some might still be alive.
Frantic activity went on ceaselessly all
night long by about 500 rescue workers from
the armed forces, the police, the fire
service and the civil defence force.
They used cranes to lift the heavy
concrete slabs while others, equipped with
power saws, drills, steel cutters and
crowbars, gingerly prised away the wreckage
layer by layer. Civil engineers were also at
the site to give advice.
Rescuers pumped oxygen and compressed air
into two cavities where two women were found
alive but pinned down.
The authorities are still puzzled over how
the building could collapse so suddenly and
An eye-witness said all was rubble in a
matter of seconds.
past years in Singapore
1983: Seven people died when
two Sentosa cable cars plunged 55 m into the
sea after the derrick of an oil drilling
vessel struck the cableway. Fourteen people
were rescued -- a two-year-old boy from the
sea and the others from the suspended cable
1978: Seventy-six people died
in an explosion on the Greek-owned
64,081-tonne tanker Spyros as it was berthed
at Jurong Shipyard for repairs. Sixty-nine
1972: Nine died in Robinson's
fire due to a short circuit from overload.
1961: Five died in massive
Bukit Ho Swee fire; 15,694 made homeless.
1954: Qantas-BOAC plane from
Sydney crashed at Kallang Airport.
Thirty-three lives were lost.
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