And when it did spill over in the good old days …

6 09 2013

Yesterday’s big flood was quite a major talking point. Floods have actually been a regular occurrence through much of Singapore’s history, two massive floods that did occur in my childhood were the big floods of 1969 and 1978. Most people were unfazed by the smaller floods – when the waters did spill over, it was always an opportunity for the kids of those days to have fun, any way they could, bringing out rubber tubes and in the case of the photograph of the flood of 1978 in the tabloid newspaper of those times, the New Nation, a giant wok.

1978 Flood

A contributor Yuen Hun to a post on Facebook Group “On a Little Street in Singapore” speaks of the big flood of 1969 and other flood experiences in Potong Pasir, a low-lying area where flooding was a fairly regular occurrence:

For me it was in a Potong Pasir farm village in 1969. The water was chest high after several days of continous rain. The entire village was submerged in yellow muddy water.

Villagers had to evacuate ourselves to higher grounds of Toa Payoh new town. How do we avoid falling into invisible ponds below the water and not get drowned ? Thanks to the men in the village. They led all the women and children to safety. All persons moved together in a linear manner holding on to bamboo poles. All the bamboo poles were linked together horizontally by the men . A selfless and courageous man led the group by testing the ground and avoided the invisible deep ponds below.

I can recall vividly that my father piggy-back me while my 2 years old brother sat on our neigbour ‘s shoulder. Cannot remembered what he looked like , but remembered he has an affectionat nick name ” Loa Di ( 老弟 in Hokkien . At that moment, it was still raining.

My older siblings went on to stay in a large community hall in a school building, while my mother and the younger siblings went to live with my mother’s cousin’s one-room flat in Lorong 7 , Toa Payoh.

We relished a dinner of hot Fried Hor Fun (Rice Noodles) served on those fragrant yellow tree bark wrappings.

Then there were smaller floods every December. The fish and tortoises were displaced from their ponds. Wonderful opportunities for children to capture and collect them into multiple large cement fish tanks. We would use white paint to write serial numbers on each tortoise collected. The number accumulate up to 400 over many years.  I had so many wonderful experience and playtime memories of those floods.

Singapore underwater

16 06 2010

Oopsie, I guess I may have been a little premature in celebrating the rain this morning – the rain does provide a welcome respite from the sweltering heat that has seemed to engulf us of late, but today, there was some serious flooding that occurred in parts of Singapore. Channel NewsAsia reported that the areas affected included Bukit Timah, Newton Circus and Scotts Road. It does seem that the junction of Scotts and Orchard Roads were hit pretty badly with stalled vehicles causing chaos at the junction which resulted in a friend of mine being stuck for 3 hours! There were some pretty amazing scenes looking at the pictures he took.

The thing about today’s flash floods was that it coincided with the low tide. What we may also recall were the floods which occurred in Bukit Timah last November which were said to be a once in 50 year event. It would be interesting to see what the authorities say over the next few days.

Flooding was quite a regular occurrence in Singapore at one time and I recall that the area where the primary school that I attended was, had been quite flood prone and we regularly had to wade through flood waters. The home of a classmate staying opposite the school in Lincoln Road was regularly affected. Keng Lee Road and Cambridge Road nearby, where I went to kindergarten was also prone to the Rochor Canal that ran along Kampong Java Road overflowing, and there were occasions when I had to be carried over the flood waters. Whatever it is, I am thankful that the drainage system has improved to the extent that flooding isn’t what one expects whenever there is a downpour.

Photos of the Scotts Road and Orchard Road junctions on 16 June 2010 (courtesy of James Tan):