out of this
By Toh Li
building collapses suddenly in 1986
SHE lived in
darkness for 2 days.
Every breath drew
dust, gas and the smell of broken bodies.
Above her lay
tonnes of broken brick, mortar and metal.
No one above knew
if she was alive or where she was trapped.
Christina Phua, 21, remembers calling her
then-boyfriend on the phone to say she was going
warning, a six-storey building, popularly known as
Hotel New World, at Serangoon Road collapsed. She did
not get out of the ground-floor bank in time.
An inquiry later
found that the main cause of the collapse was poor
"I saw stones
falling and the wall came tumbling down. Next thing I
knew, I was lying flat on my back," said Ms
Half a metre away
from her face was the collapsed ceiling. Beside her,
a table and a pillar. At her feet, was colleague Boh
Gee Cheng. She could not turn her body at all.
Ms Phua, now 33, is
an officer with the Industrial Commercial Bank, the
same bank she worked for when the 15-year-old
building collapsed. She prefers not to talk about the
disaster with her current friends.
But, she does not
mind recalling the fateful day on March 16, 1986, for
this story. One condition: No current photos, please.
In the wake of the
collapse came cries from people buried alive. She
shouted for help, too. She kept banging the floor.
"I was so
afraid that if I stopped, the rescuers would not find
When she was worn
out, she cried.
She heard digging
noises but could not tell where it was coming from.
Mr Cheong Cheng Guan, who could crawl around in the
level below, would call out to them, checking if they
were all right.
Hunger was not a
problem. All she wanted was a gulp of water to soothe
her throat - hoarse from all the screaming. Their
bladders also ached after so many hours.
"I told Boh
that I could not control myself anymore. She was
lying just at my feet. She would definitely get wet.
She told me to go ahead because she had also done the
The days passed.
"Still I had a
strong feeling that I would make it. I just couldn't
wait to get out and see my dad's expression,"
said Ms Phua.
People cheered when
she came out.
And her father's
He looked relieved.
And quiet, as a prayer.
In 1986, the year
of the Hotel New World disaster, Prudential's premium
revenue was $45 million.
Prudential's premium revenue passed the $1 billion
-- The New Paper,
Aug 4, 1998
Copyright © 1998 Singapore
Press Holdings. All Rights Reserved.