Grace Chua & Feng Zengkun – Straits Times Indonesia
Customers at the Starbucks outlet in Liat Towers, Singapore, were taken aback by a sudden waterfall on Friday afternoon, in a scene reminiscent of last year’s flash floods. In less than five minutes, water gushed down the steps and into the basement coffee joint, the Wendy’s burger outlet next door, as well as the Massimo Dutti clothing store.
Though both automatic and manual flood barriers had been installed, they did not come up in time to stop the waterworks, leaving shoppers to pick their way across chairs laid out as stepping stones, or wade through the knee-deep water.
Nur Sadrina Isahak, 19, was with a friend at Starbucks when the flooding began, and snapped a photo for citizen journalism Web site Stomp.
“The Starbucks crew actually used a [secondary] barrier in front of their shop, but that didn’t work and water started seeping through.”
She managed to get out when it was shin-deep and still rising.
Friday’s heavy rain caused “ponding” at Orchard Road malls and floods in other areas, said national water agency PUB, as people thronged the shopping belt to do their last-minute Christmas shopping.
Liat Towers was the worst-hit, but Lucky Plaza was also inundated.
PUB said the flooding at Liat Towers was caused by prolonged heavy rain which fell directly into the building’s open basement area.
“Based on our monitoring, Stamford Canal did not overflow. If it had, it would have resulted in flooding on Orchard Road which was not the case yesterday,” a spokesman said.
“Our officers will work with the management of Liat Towers to investigate further and determine the appropriate additional measures to be taken.”
The water agency added that 152.8mm of rain fell on Orchard Road in the three hours between 2:20 p.m. and 5:20 p.m.
In June last year, 100mm of rain fell in two hours when Orchard Road was flooded.
Then, both Liat Towers and Lucky Plaza were overwhelmed, with merchandise swept out and away by rising waters.
Friday’s floods are likely to raise questions over the adequacy of flood-protection measures in the area, such as flood barriers at Liat Towers and the raising of a 1.4km stretch of road from Orange Grove Road to Cairnhill Road.
At the underpass between Lucky Plaza and Ngee Ann City, the water was ankle-deep, with an oily sheen.
Wave after wave of pedestrians walked down the steps to the top of the underpass, only to be turned away when they saw it was cordoned off.
Other areas were also submerged in Friday’s downpour, with water rising as high as 30cm in some places.
Between 4pm and 6pm, Newton Circus, United Square, parts of Bukit Timah, Kampong Java and Lincoln Road were among those hit by flash floods.
Road improvement works in some of these areas had been completed, such as at Lincoln Road.
The PUB had raised a 200m stretch along the road last year by about 50cm, but it said the rain on Friday was still too intense. About 140.8mm fell in the area in the three hours between 2.20pm and 5.20pm.
An ongoing project at the nearby Rochor Canal to reduce flooding in the area will be completed by 2014.
At Wee Nam Road, which was also affected on Friday, ongoing work to expand the area’s drains will be completed by 2013.
PUB said most of the flash floods had subsided by 6.30pm.
Along Sixth Avenue in Bukit Timah, water bubbled out of the drains and grates, but shop owners and residents said they were not affected.
Most shops in the area were prepared: They had installed flood protection features such as waterproof floors and raised platforms outside their shops after the floods last year.
Amber Mo, 27, an employee at LED Works along Sixth Avenue, said the shop was flooded last year but spared from Friday’s rains.
‘We were all watching the drains in the afternoon but thankfully the water never rose too high,’ she said.
At Newton Circus, hawkers at the popular food centre there said that the nearby roads were flooded to about ankle height, a common occurrence during heavy downpours. Traffic was not affected, and the water subsided about half an hour after the rain stopped.
The storm drain between Bukit Timah Road and Dunearn Road was filled nearly to capacity with muddy brown water, though roads were not submerged.
Low tide on Friday (0.5m) was at 5 p.m. Up to eight gates at the Marina Barrage were opened to make sure the water level at the Marina Reservoir did not rise too high.
Reprinted courtesy of Straits Times Indonesia. To subscribe to
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