Five Rescued, Contact Reported With Others
KENNETH L. WHITING
Mar. 17, 1986
SINGAPORE (AP) _ Rescuers today pulled five more survivors from the wreckage of a collapsed six-story hotel, and said they had heard the voices of several people buried under the rubble for two days.
''Many voices have been heard and we are trying to establish contact with them,'' Lim Siam Kim, operations director of the Home Affairs Ministry, said early in the day. He said rescue teams mainly were trying to reach the basement where there were signs of life.
The 67-room Hotel New World fell Saturday, and authorities said today they have not determined why.
Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew announced that a high court judge will head a commission of inquiry. ''The collapse of such a building is unprecedented. There were no apparent reasons,'' Lee said in a statement.
Officials earlier today said 11 people were known to have died, but Lim later said there were only 10 confirmed deaths. Sixteen people have been rescued.
No Americans were known to have been in the hotel, in Singapore's ''Little India'' quarter, when it collapsed at 11:20 a.m. Government officials estimate that approximately 100 people were inside at the time.
Lim told reporters the first two people rescued today were flown by helicopter to hospital where they were listed in stable condition.
They were identified as two men from Singapore - Cheong Cheng Guan and Boey Mun Wai, both bank employees and about 30 years old. Details of their rescue were not immediately available.
Two women were later found entangled in the rubble, and a man was dug out tonight, officials said.
The search teams had lost touch with survivors for several hours after several tunnels collapsed and blocked approach routes, or proved to be deadends. Officials said the trapped survivors were in the basement level.
Cranes and other heavy equipment were idle today and no rescue workers climbed atop the debris, as efforts concentrated on burrowing carefully toward those trapped.
''Because of the activity on top there was vibration and a wall collapsed,'' Lim said.
He said sensitive electronic equipment was being lowered into crevices and appeals in several languages transmitted through it for survivors to make their positions known. The rescuers had not determined the identities of the survivors.
An army doctor, Lt. Col. Lim Meng Kin, said he crawled into the wreckage to treat one survivor who was trapped under the steel door of a bank vault.
One of those rescued, 42-year-old Lee Fook Chan, told officials that he had been buried in the hotel's basement car park along with his mother, brother and a friend. Lee, who was rescued Sunday night, said he talked with his brother for awhile but then his brother stopped talking. Lee said he feared his relatives and friend had died.
One official said the upper floors of the 15-year-old building telescoped down, leaving extremely small spaces between them. An adjacent shopping center, gas station and group of small shops were untouched by the disaster.
Officials said one of the known dead was 29-year-old Ng Cheng Kee, wife of the hotel's manager. Four others were Malaysians, and the others were not immediately identified.
Most of those known to be missing were believed to have been in a ground- floor branch of the Industrial and Commercial Bank.
Lim said the missing included employees and customers of the bank, hotel guests and staff, and others.
The bank's executive director, Gwee Yee Hean, has assured depositors that their funds are safe. However, he asked those who deposited checks Saturday to contact the bank's other branches on the assumption that they were lost in the rubble and would have to be replaced.
About 1,000 people gathered at the wrecked building today, including police, firefighters, soldiers, civilian volunteers, among them hundreds of foreigners, and more than 60 workers from the Mass Rapid Transit system, a subway still under construction.
An MRT spokesman said tunneling and excavation for the subway did not cause the hotel to fall down.
The Hotel New World served a clientele of budget-conscious travelers, many of them from India or Indians visiting from neighboring Malaysia.