Rescue divers from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) scoured the waters off the Esplanade, Theatres By The Bay, late into the night yesterday (July 12) for a missing boatman whose vessel caught fire hours earlier.

The burning boat was part of a fleet run by the Singapore River Cruise for its river taxi service and located near the mouth of the Singapore River and Marina Bay.

Relatives of the missing man, including his tearing mother, arrived at the Esplanade and led to a cordoned-off area.

Eyewitness accounts on social media said that the smoke could be seen from as far as the Central Business District and an eyewitness said he saw  a man jumped out of the burning boat into the water but couldn’t see where he swam.

Police started setting up a barricade as the boat was being towed back to the pier after the fire had been completely put out. The top half of the boat was completely razed. The Esplanade Bridge was also closed off to pedestrians.

Singapore River Cruise said it had stopped all operations in the evening and told media that no one had been on board the river taxi at the time.

The SCDF said they were alerted to the incident at 6.26pm and extinguished the fire later using two water jets from the river bank. There were no other reported missing persons or injuries.

According to SCDF, they used various methods to search for the man. One method involves point diving to a depth of about four metres and divers used a circular search pattern from the point where the person was last seen, with the search team moving in a grid.

The poor underwater visibility at night made the search difficult and another challenge faced by the rescuers is to submerge and search through deep silt present on the river bed.

The water search operation was called off at 2am on Wednesday.

The SCDF said they will continue to dispatch their resources every two hours to look for “anything that surfaces”.

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