Stall owner suffers burns on 95% of face
HE NEVER expected to spend Chinese New Year in a hospital. Last Sunday, on the eve of the festive occasion, Chiok Tiong Kwee's Fo Shou Vegetarian Food stall in Taman Jurong Market and Food Centre caught fire.
The 66-year-old suffered burns on 95 per cent of his face.
It was about 6.30am when Mr Chiok turned on the stove, preparing to cook for the day.
He stepped out of the stall, located on the third storey of the building, to get his ingredients. When he came back, he saw the stove area in flames.
After a failed attempt to break the fire extinguisher out of its locked case, Mr Chiok panicked. He grabbed a wet gunny sack from the stall next to his and threw it over the fire, hoping it would extinguish the flames.
But the situation became worse.
The fire got bigger and ended up burning his face, neck and both his hands.
"I didn't want the fire to spread," he told Shin Min Daily News.
"I just wanted to put the fire out."
Mr Chiok says the stall's closure for the day saw him lose approximately $500 worth of business.
Upon learning about the mishap, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam wrote a letter to him, saying he regrets to hear of the incident at the hawker centre.
He added: "With my grassroots leaders, I will support you in all ways possible."
He ended the note by saying: "My best wishes for a quick recovery."
Along with the heartwarming note, Mr Tharman gave Mr Chiok, who has been working at the stall for the past 11 years, a hongbao as a token of support.
Mr Chiok, who was admitted to the Singapore General Hospital, said he was "very touched" by the letter.
His face has been bandaged to ensure that the wounds do not come in contact with water and sunlight.
The area around his eyes is red and puffy.
Mr Chiok, who now has difficulty eating, said: "I don't know if I will go back to work after I have recovered from this.
"I may retire but I won't make a decision until I have recovered."
THE NEW PAPER