Did PUB works at Orchard Road last year contribute to flash floods?

Basement of Tanglin Mall flooded (courtesy of @onglette)Basement of Tanglin Mall flooded (courtesy of @onglette)

Did a multi-million dollar project to raise low-lying roads in the Orchard area last year contribute to Sunday's flash floods? Or did it prevent even further damage?

This after two Orchard Road buildings -- Tanglin Mall and St Regis Residences -- were hardest hit by Sunday's floods -- the worst this year.

The Orchard Road Business Association (ORBA), for one, has questioned if the Public Utilities Board project has actually made the problem worse.

ORBA executive director Steven Goh said "It's kind of like an anniversary for us. It happened last year on June 16... and the PUB road raising works has almost been completed."

"It seems like... the problem (had) been transferred from the downstream of Orchard Road to the upstream of Orchard Road," he added.

But the PUB has rebutted Mr Goh's claim and said the flooding would have been worse without the project, it told MediaCorp.

PUB announced last year a $26 million project to raise a 1.4km stretch from Orange Grove Road to Cairnhill Road by an average of 300mm. The project, which started last November, is due to be completed by the end of the month. Currently, the junction of Cuscaden Road and Tomlinson Road is being raised.

At the time, PUB had said that when works are completed, it would "prevent rainwater from overflowing onto the roads but instead contain it inside the canal to be conveyed towards Marina Reservoir. It will also help prevent future flash floods."

However, the PUB did admit that a software glitch led to Tanglin Mall and St Regis Residences not being alerted of Sunday's impending flash floods.

It said all other buildings in the area, such as Delfi, Lucky Plaza and Tong Building received the flood alerts. PUB said it would rectify the problem immediately.

Tanglin Mall was among the hardest hit mall on Sunday with several shops having to close temporarily after flood water from Level One, which was at road level, started pouring in.

Within minutes, water fell like a mini-waterfall onto Basement One. Several businesses -- a supermarket, food court and various shops -- were submerged in ankle-deep water and had to close. There was also widespread chaos after the basement carparks were also affected.

In June 2010, similar floods along Orchard Road cost businesses hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But this time, employees said the floods were worse.

The Little Gym instructor PJ Lucero said on CNA, "The last time it happened, it was actually more mild. We were still able to open the facility for the day. Today (Sunday), of course, everything got submerged, that's why we had to close down.

"In fact, after the first time it happened, we had sandbags ready. We did use those sandbags today (but) it didn't work. The water just went through it".

Chen Jiahui, store manager of Spinelli Coffee Company along Forum Shopping Mall, added, "This is the second time (it flooded). It's really bad, so I hope that the management are doing something about it".

National water agency PUB said the severity of the flood at Tanglin Mall was something it had not seen in the last 25 years.

It said rainfall was more intense than that of June last year, when various parts of Orchard Road were flooded. About 65mm of rainfall was recorded within 30 mins on Sunday morning, compared to 100mm within two hours on June 16, 2010.

Later in the day, at a press conference which was also attended by Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Vivian Balakrishnan, PUB explained that the flash floods on Sunday morning were caused by two bouts of heavy rainfall.

It said the first bout of rainfall started slightly past 6am, and second downpour, which was more intense, occurred at about 10.30am.

Speaking after inspecting the flood areas at Tanglin Mall, Dr Balakrishnan said, "Personally, I think our weather has changed. I'm actually psychologically prepared for it to get worse."

"You're dealing with nature, and you're dealing with the weather; you have to be prepared that there is a limit to human engineering and what we can deliver, " he added.

"But having said that, let us make sure we have done the best we can and within those limits, then cope with whatever else that nature throws at us."

In a Sunday post on his blog entitled "Focus of floods: 5 Key questions", the Minister also wrote "We are dealing with Nature, and Man needs to be humble when addressing the challenges that Nature poses".

He also admitted that "sometimes despite our best efforts, we cannot win" when dealing with flood issues but he promised that "we will be open and transparent. We will share as much data in real time as possible so that solutions and precautions can be devised for the immediate and long term."

PUB chief executive Khoo Teng Chye, meanwhile, said he is studying some possible solutions to prevent future occurrences.

"These include, possibly, building a big retention pond near where we can then trap some of the peak flows," Mr Khoo said.

"The other alternative is to really create a diversion canal from where this pond is to the Singapore River. But given Singapore's built-up situation, these are very, very expensive schemes."

Eng Neo Avenue flooded (courtesy of @Nadya_HutaGalng)Eng Neo Avenue flooded (courtesy of @Nadya_HutaGalng)
The heavy downpour early on Sunday also triggered flash floods across several parts of the island.

Senett Estate, Potong Pasir, MacPherson, Toa Payoh and Bukit Timah were also partially submerged by floods.

Two lanes along Bukit Timah Road near Cuscaden and Hillcrest Road were completely impassable to traffic at one stage. So too was the Kranji Expressway (KJE) at the slip road towards Woodlands.

Micro-blogging platform Twitter also lit up with hundreds of tweets, shortly after the flash floods (#sgfloods) hit.

Tanglin Mall flooding (courtesy of @onglette)Tanglin Mall flooding (courtesy of @onglette)

Ex-model and VJ Nadya Hutagalung (@Nadya_HutaGalng) tweeted, "Eng Neo avenue flooded!"

Another Twitter user Akmal Hadi (@Athrun988) tweeted, "Singapore is gonna be another Venice at the year end monsoon season if the government's not gonna do anything about it soon."

Another user, Jacqui T tweeted, "First world nation with third world drainage system. Wonderful."

Charlotte Ong (@onglette) also posted a series of pictures of Tanglin Mall flooding and tweeted, "Check out the waterfall in the shopping centre" and "First level flood pouring down to basement."

  • How Far Should Galleries Go To Police Creativity?
    How Far Should Galleries Go To Police Creativity?

    Together with his wife, they set up an art collective, Holy Crap, that features art works created by their 2 children (Aira, 9 and Renn, 11). It was thus disappointing for us to learn about the recent “When Renndon Met Airany” exhibition, is to be removed from Gallery & Co’s space with immediate effect. As Gallery & Co’s space was within the National Gallery, there was an expectation that whatever works of art must be curated beforehand, by National Gallery Singapore, despite Gallery & Co functioning independently as a cafeteria.

  • SGIFF 2015: Looking For Love Along Bugis Street
    SGIFF 2015: Looking For Love Along Bugis Street

    Rolling a film with nudity, transsexuals, prostitutes, is a sure-fire way to get on wrong side of local authorities. Bugis Street ticked all those boxes, and received an RA rating from MDA, only after having full-frontal nude scenes edited out. We follow the journey of starry-eyed Lien (Hiep Thi Le from Heaven & Earth) who leaves her hometown in Malaysia, with a heart and head full of hope, all ready to begin her job in Singapore as a receptionist at Sin Sin Hotel. Little did she realize Sin Sin Hotel functioned as a brothel, and gets a rude shock one day upon witnessing a transsexual cavorting with a client. Internationally respected director, Yonfan, shared that when the film was first screened in Hong Kong, “everyone thought it was in bad taste” and the actors similarly shared that they received a lot of flak for it as well from friends and family. The viewer is forced to confront full frontal intimate scenes that were raw, gritty, primal, and sometimes border-lining on the grotesque.

  • Big Shift In The Singapore Private Dining Scene
    Big Shift In The Singapore Private Dining Scene

    Singapore has embraced the idea of private dining a while ago. It is very personable and intimate, therefore it comes with a price tag. But what if I tell you that it is no longer the case. Prices go down The big shift in private dining scene comes with the launch of HopHop Chef mobile app, as the price of the private chef service has dropped dramatically. If you spend $20-30 per person when you eat out with family and friends, now you can upgrade to private dining while keeping the same budget. Score! Comfort Singaporean food enters the private dining scene The app offers customers to book popular Singaporean dishes which will be cooked fresh by a local chef in your own kitchen. The range of dishes HopHop Chef covers includes meat, seafood, chicken, vegetables and beancurd. Whatever you are longing for, be it Kung Pao Chicken, Hainanese Pork Chop, Ginger Beef, Tahu Telur, Singapore Chili Flower Crab or trending Cereal Prawn – now you can get a chef to cook it for you in your own house on a casual Sunday or Wednesday. As a customer you choose the dishes you like, select the time you want the chef to arrive ... Bon Vivant - Asia's ultimate Food & Lifestyle Magazine, presented by Clubvivre