Red Cross Memories: David Yeo

One of my most unforgettable Red Cross memories was during the Hotel New World Collapse. At that time, I was a technician with General Electric (USA) and I was also a volunteer with the Singapore Red Cross. I was staying at Kitchener Road then which was just opposite Hotel New World. I was at home on 15 March 1986 as it was a Saturday. At around 11am, I heard a loud boom. I rushed to the back door of my home and saw dusty smoke emerging from the Hotel New World. I rushed to the scene in my tee shirt, shorts and sandals.

When I got to the scene, it was a disaster. The entire building had caved inward. As there were a lot of debris all around, it was very dusty.

The policemen cordoned off the area. As a volunteer with the Singapore Red Cross, my mission was to save people. Although I was trained in first aid, I did not have anything with me. I just came down in my tee shirt and shorts but I told the policemen that I was from Singapore Red Cross and I wanted to go in to save people. I showed them my Red Cross membership card and they let me in.

The scene was bloody and chilling. There were blood stains all around. People were buried under the debris and were crying for help.

By then, there were passers-by along that area and I called out to them for help. The passers-by who were around 30-40 years of age, came from all races and all walks of life. I was very impressed by their team spirit and helpfulness in coming together to save people.

I told them I will pull out the people trapped in the debris and told them to form a human chain to bring the victims out to a safe place. Maybe because I appeared rather steady and calm since I had handled different situations at Red Cross, people turned to me for advice on what to do. I had to think very quickly on my feet then. Every second counts to save a life. I told them if there is someone I pulled out, we will keep the victim’s head up for oxygen and loosen the clothing of males. Everyone was very cooperative.

It was very dusty, so it was difficult to see. I listened to hear the cries of the victims trapped among the debris. I kept a lookout for debris that moved as there may be someone beneath the debris. I told myself, I had to be very observant to save people.

I managed to rescue two people. Both were about 95 percent covered by debris when I found them. I desperately removed the debris with my bare hands. I had blisters all over my limbs. I did not care about my hands because when it came to saving people, speed was important. Coming from the Red Cross, my goal was to save as many people as I can. The first victim, a guy whom I managed to pull out, had a head injury but fortunately, he was still breathing. I also managed to pull out a second guy. By then, I was very tired. I worked non-stop to save the first two victims by removing all the debris on them before pulling them out. As they were men, they were rather heavy too. Though I only managed to save two, I am happy that I had done my part to save people.

By then, there were many policemen and Civil Defence force there, so I left the rest to them. I did not try to venture further because it would have been very dangerous to go in alone without any tools and I was very exhausted by then.

It was a painful and poignant experience that left an indelible mark on my memory. It was really bloody. There were many people who were injured. Some were buried in the rubble. But that reinforced my conviction that it is important to learn first aid and to be prepared for emergencies.