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Home / News / Rescuers’ Race Against Time to Extricate Two Bodies from Collapsed Scaffolding  
Published: 18 Jul 2012 07:59PM (Singapore)
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Rescuers’ Race Against Time to Extricate Two Bodies from Collapsed Scaffolding
Two workers were killed when a scaffolding between the Downtown Line (DTL) Bugis Station and the current Bugis MRT station collapsed at 6.50 am on 18 July 2012.
By Daniel Govindan, Haikal Jamari
SCDF officers rushing to extricate the bodies at the scaffolding collapse site between the Downtown Line (DTL) Bugis Station and the current Bugis MRT station. PHOTO: Matthew Wong

Two days after the devastating fire which engulfed the East Village Hotel in Marine Parade, tragedy struck again as temporary scaffolding used for the construction of a roof at the new Downtown Line (DTL) Bugis station construction site gave way.

The structure, which is located between the new DTL Bugis and the current Bugis Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) Station, was built to form an underground linkway between the two stations.

The scaffolding collapsed at 6.50 am on 18 July 2012 when wet cement was being poured.

Eight workers were injured and two were missing.

The injured workers were sent to the nearby Raffles Hospital.

Five were treated for minor injuries then discharged from hospital while the remaining three have been warded.

Concerned colleagues of the trapped workers anxiously looking on as extrication works progressed. PHOTO: Matthew Wong

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) was notified of the incident at 7.20 am and rescuers arrived at the collapse site within five minutes.

The construction site was located 15m below the road surface near the junction of Rochor Road and Victoria Street.

Fire-fighters and SCDF's elite Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (DART) searched a 30m by 5m area to find the two workers who were still unaccounted for.

It was an arduous task to not only locate these bodies but to also extricate them from within the collapsed steel structure.

Speaking to reporters, SCDF Public Affairs Director Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Abdul Razak Bin Abdul Raheem said the incident area was filled with wet cement and covered by wooden planks and intertwined metal rods from the scaffolding.

After clearing the visible debris, the SCDF still had to cut through many intertwined metal rods with oxy-acetylene torches before they could begin locating the bodies.

SCDF officers planning how they could re-enter the site to extricate the bodies. PHOTO: Matthew Wong

As the wet cement could dry up over time complicating search and extrication operations, officers had to work against time.

To prevent the wet concrete from drying up and permanently trapping the two accident victims, the SCDF continuously pumped water from two high pressure water jets into the incident site.

Wading through waist-deep wet and dense cement, rescuers had to use their hands to search for the fully submerged bodies.

The first worker's body was found at 10.40 am and extricated an hour later.

The extrication process for the first body was further complicated by the partial hardening of the concrete.

The second body was found about 1m away from the first body at 12.45 pm.

Trapped in partially hardened cement, the body was pinned down by intertwined scaffolding metal rods which the SCDF rescuers had to first cut through before retrieving the body.

The second body was successfully extricated at 4.05 pm. 

Lieutenant-Colonel (LTC) Abdul Razak (centre), SCDF Director of Public Affairs Department, briefing the media on the search and extrication process. PHOTO: Matthew Wong

Forty SCDF personnel including officers from the K9 unit and the DART Team were involved in the search and extrication operation.

Nine DART members suffered chemical burns on their lower arms during the extrication process due to the chemical additives in the wet cement they were wading in.

They were treated at the construction site and conveyed to Singapore General Hospital.

The officers have been discharged from hospital.

A spectacle shop assistant who works in the area said: “I was anxiously calling my friends in the morning for news on the DTL scaffolding collapse as some of my friends are working there. Thankfully, they are fine."

Check out this video on how SCDF Fire-fighters and members of the elite Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team searched and extricated the body of two workers burried under rubble and submerged in wet cement at the Downtown Line scaffolding collapse site in Bugis.

SCDF 1st Division Commander, LTC Ling Kok Yong said the incident occurred within the linkway connecting the new DTL station and Bugis MRT station and that the existing Bugis MRT station is not affected.

Land Transport Authority's (LTA) Senior Group Director Mr Sim Wee Men said: “The DTL Bugis Station structure is structurally sound and that the incident does not pose any risk to the surrounding areas and to the public.”

“We are deeply saddened by this incident, and we will help the families of the victims though this difficult time,” said Mr Sim.

Speaking to reporters at the incident site at 4.45 pm, Minister of State for Manpower and National Development Mr Tan Chuan-Jin expressed his condolences to the families of the two victims as well as the eight that were injured.

“Our priority is to do what we can to ensure that the injured workers are looked after and the companies will also reach out to their families,” said Mr Tan.

“I would like to take the opportunity to recognise our officers from the SCDF who have responded very quickly this morning.”

“We will carry out the necessary investigations to make sure we learn the correct lessons and to make sure this does not happen again,” said Mr Tan.

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Minister of State for Manpower and National Development Tan Chuan-Jin talks to reporters about the scaffolding collapse at the Downtown Line construction site in Bugis. VIDEO: Sidwyn Koh

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