Singapore explosion: Three killed, five in critical condition

SINGAPORE (CNA) – Three of the 10 workers who suffered burns in a fire at an industrial building in Tuas have died, said Commissioner for Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Silas Sng yesterday.

Another five are in critical condition, while two workers have been discharged, added Sng.

Preliminary investigations have found that the accident at 32E Tuas Avenue 11 was caused by “a combustible dust explosion”, said Mr Sng, who is also Director of the Manpower Ministry’s Occupational Safety and Health Division.

The site of the fire at an industrial building in Tuas, Singapore. CNA

He added that the dust was in the form of potato starch powder, a material used for production by the company at the site, Stars Engrg.

Sng explained that such dust can be generated when powder is transferred, such as from a bag into a mixer.

“Over time, the dust can accumulate in the environment, especially if the ventilation or the housekeeping is inadequate… And when the dust comes into contact with a source of a friction, an explosion will occur as we see in this accident.”

He urged companies working with similar combustible materials to review their safety measures to ensure that dust does not accumulate in an enclosed environment.

When asked by CNA if the families of the deceased workers have been informed, Sng said the workers have not yet been identified.

“As we understand from the hospital, (their identities are) still in the process of being ascertained due to the extensive injuries that they have sustained.

“So I think in the interest of confidentiality… once it is confirmed, then we will inform the families accordingly,” said Sng.

He added that the National Trades Union Congress and the Migrant Workers Centre have been in touch with other affected migrant workers and their companies “to render whatever assistance necessary to help them”.