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Singapore Sky Lantern Festival fiasco: SCDF says organisers did not adhere to stipulated fire safety guidelines

Safety concerns prompt authorities to instruct that candles not be used, and the organisers resorted to LED lights, frustrating attendees

Attendees at Sentosa's Sky Lantern Festival at Palawan Green were charged $50 per person, excluding booking fees.
Attendees at Sentosa's Sky Lantern Festival at Palawan Green were charged $50 per person, excluding booking fees. (PHOTO: TikTok/leamingtondiaries and TikTok/syxflicks and Facebook/LawrenceLam)

SINGAPORE — The organiser of a sky lantern festival held at Sentosa did not follow fire safety guidelines, prompting authorities to instruct that candles cannot be used. This led to the event - which charged S$50 per person excluding booking fees - being unable to deliver its promise of a photogenic lantern light-up with burning candles.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) told media outlets that it had emphasised the need for the organiser of the Singapore Sky Lantern Festival to adhere to fire safety guidelines on "multiple occasions" leading up to the event, but there was no compliance.

An SCDF spokesperson told Yahoo Southeast Asia on Friday (23 February) that sky lanterns must remain tethered when lit, with safety marshals present to supervise and prevent untethered releases. These marshals should also be equipped with fire extinguishers.

The festival, which took place at Palawan Green on Wednesday, left many attendees disappointed and frustrated as the original plans were changed due to "unforeseen circumstances". Instead of burning candles, LED candles were provided, and attendees were given pens to write wishes on the lanterns before tying them to barricades.

Organisers swap sky lanterns for LEDs

The SCDF said that it had communicated fire safety guidelines to the organiser on 31 October last year, reiterating these requirements multiple times leading up to the event.

"On 19 February, the event organiser conducted a trial which was unsatisfactory as one of the lighted lanterns caused a small fire on the artificial turf," it said.

After the event was fully set up on Wednesday, SCDF found upon inspection that the organiser still had not adhered to the guidelines. "They did not provide proper tethers for the sky lanterns, nor fire extinguishers, or safety marshals. Therefore, in the interest of public and aviation safety, SCDF informed the event organiser that they should not use the sky lanterns for the event. The event organiser eventually used LED lights for the lanterns," SCDF said.

According to a spokesperson from Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC), the event was organised by a third party, Asian Couture & Boutique, which had rented the venue. Due to the organiser's failure to obtain the necessary licenses and clearance to meet safety requirements, the event could only proceed with music entertainment.

Regulatory insights and guest communication efforts amidst event delay

Jean Yee, director of airspace policy at the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), told Yahoo Southeast Asia on Friday that releasing tethered sky lanterns during the festival did not require a CAAS permit. This was because the festival had planned for the release to occur outside military operating hours and restricted areas, and at a height not higher than 60 metres.

However, Yee added that releasing untethered sky lanterns in Singapore is not allowed due to the safety risk they pose to aircraft.

In statement to Yahoo Southeast Asia, a spokesperson from SDC said that they were informed by both SCDF and the event organiser about a delay to the event's start on Wednesday afternoon. In response, immediate action was taken to inform guests of the situation through signages at key locations, and live updates were provided by the organiser on the event grounds.

The SDC spokesperson apologised for any inconvenience caused to guests and directed ticket-holders to contact the event organiser for refunds, with contact details including Steven Lau at 9455 5212 and Shiermie Bautista at shiermie85@gmail.com or 84248725.

The event, scheduled from 3pm to midnight, was set to kick off with a music festival followed by a lantern release at 7.30pm. (PHOTO: eventbrite.sg/singaporeskylanternfestival)
The event, scheduled from 3pm to midnight, was set to kick off with a music festival followed by a lantern release at 7.30pm. (PHOTO: eventbrite.sg/singaporeskylanternfestival)

Attendees express disappointment and call for refunds

Frustrated participants took to social media platforms to voice their grievances about the abrupt cancellation of the light-up event.

One Facebook user, Lawrence, labelled the situation as a disappointment. "Singapore Sky Lantern Festival (is) so disorganised, few staff to direct the queue (people can just jump the queue), no instructions of any kind, and the event was delayed until when we don't know," he wrote

Lawrence stressed the inconvenience faced by his family, who had travelled from Australia specifically for the event. He said, "My son's family (grandson is only 2.5 years old) booked it online and came all the way from Australia, and I have to accompany them from Yishun up north. What a disappointment and time wasted."

Another TikTok user, Leamingtondiaries, shared her experience with Yahoo Southeast Asia on Friday, describing it as a "monumental flop" and highlighting the confusion and chaos that ensued among attendees. "We expected a grand light-up event at 7.30pm, so we arrived to find massive crowds and long queues, only to discover at 7.15pm that there were no preparations underway," she said.

She emphasised the frustration caused by the lack of communication, with a minuscule sign alluding to delays due to unforeseen circumstances. Attendees encountered an elderly man distributing lanterns and fake candles, signalling the absence of the anticipated light-up event. Food stalls remained empty and half-set-up, contributing to the disarray, as stall owners were nowhere to be found.

The TikTok user also recounted the organisers' disappearance after a brief appearance at 5pm, leaving attendees without proper explanations or guidance until a late announcement about refunds surfaced around 7.45pm. Foreign visitors, who had travelled specifically for the event, were left in the dark, seeking answers from other attendees.

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