Tides of Yesterday

Aug 01, 2010
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A Singaporean remembers the floods in the tiny city-state in 1969 and 1978, when things were very different.


The flooding that occurred in Singapore two months ago brings to mind some large floods that hit previously, which had resulted in much devastation and damage.

Looking back in time, June’s flooding pales in comparison to the big flood that affected much of the island some 40 years ago on December 10, 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.

I remember seeing the clean pink carcasses of pigs floating in the flood waters.

Another large flood I recall was the one that hit on December 2, 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, an area prone to flooding. Once, 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 on June 16 might have resulted in something that could have matched the monster floods of 1969 and 1978.


Singapore's Newton Circus under water on December 10, 1969.

Singapore's Newton Circus under water on December 10, 1969.


This post was originally published on The Long and Winding Road in June 2010.


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