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.

So, it wasn’t the cat after all!

17 06 2010

So it wasn’t really the cat after all, or the dog for that matter. The PUB confirmed this in a statement issued late this afternoon. Quoting a Channel NewsAsia report, “in its statement the PUB said the drain’s capacity is adequate as it has handled previous rains of similar intensity”. In the statement, the PUB blamed the flooding on the build up of debris which were trapped in a culvert near Delfi Orchard. The culvert which diverts water from Nassim and Cuscaden Road into two sections of Stamford Canal, runs along Orchard Road. As a result of the heavy build-up of debris the rainwater from the heavy rainfall was diverted to only one the sections of the canal.

High and dry ... this cat certainly wasn't the culprit, nor the dogs that were said to have fallen with the cats!

The PUB did say in the statement that it would be increasing the frequency of maintenance and inspections of critical closed drains as a result. While this does help to prevent future repeat occurrences of Wednesday’s flood, it would certainly be more effective if we were to tackle the problem at its source. Walking around Singapore these days, there is certainly a lot of litter that can be seen strewn around: plastic cups, plastic bags, plastic bottles, styrofoam food containers etc. Many of these do eventually find their way into the drains and canals when it rains. The recent launch of the new anti-littering drive which was announced last week and the associated measures to curb littering now takes on a greater degree of importance. Let’s hope the recent flooding helps to bring the message to everyone that the consequences of littering can be a lot more far reaching than many of us would like to believe.

The heavy downpour caused debris to be trapped diverting water into only one of two sections of the canal. An open section of the canal is seen here behind Tanglin Shopping Centre.

Walking around Singapore these days, litter such as plastic cups, styrofoam containers, plastic bottles and bags, etc. can be found everywhere.

Much of the litter eventually ends up in the drains and canals, not just choking them, but also diverting them into our rivers and reservoirs.

When parts of Singapore were under 2 metres of water

17 06 2010

The flooding that occurred yesterday morning brings to mind some massive floods that hit Singapore previously which had resulted in much devastation and damage. Looking back in time, yesterday’s flooding pales in comparison to the monster flood that affected much of the island some 40 years ago on 10 December 1969. Some 12 inches or 300 millimetres of rain fell in a 24 hour period leaving many parts of Singapore submerged up to chest levels, with waters in the worst hit areas rising over 2 metres, in the worst flooding in some 35 years. Some 3000 people were left homeless as a result and five people were killed. Potong Pasir would usually be one of the worst hit areas and I remember being able to see only the attap and zinc roofs of houses from the vantage of the block of flats I lived in in Toa Payoh, which overlooked the area. Vegetable farms were destroyed and much of the livestock kept in the pig and poultry farms would have drowned – another thing I remember seeing is the clean pink carcasses of pigs floating in the flood waters.

Flooding at Newton Circus 10 December 1969. 300 mm of rain fell over a 24 hour period causing massive flooding all over Singapore. Water rose to chest levels in many parts of Singapore, and over 2 metres in some of the worst hit areas.

Another big  flood I recall was the one that hit on 2 December 1978, when six people died. Most of the deaths associated with that flood and the many others before it, were due to people falling into monsoon drains and being swept away by the fast moving water. This led to the installation of guard rails along monsoon drains, as it was often hard to tell where the monsoon drains were during a flood. I recall an incident when going to school in Essex Road off Thomson Road, one of the areas prone to flooding. During one flood, waters rose to knee deep levels and a schoolmate lost his footing, falling into the drain near the school gate – fortunately for him, he was able to hold on to something and pull himself out of the drain. It is comforting to know that much has been done to improve drainage on the island. If not for that, the 100 millimetres of rain that we saw yesterday might have resulted in something that could have matched the monster floods of 1969 and 1978.

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):