June 25, 2017

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ONE of the reasons why Singapore is perhaps the safest place to live in is due to the low frequency of natural disasters resulting from our geographical location. Fortunately, we are being geographically encased by Borneo on one side and Malaysia on the other. Thus, any typhoon or tsunami activity will go through those locations first. By the time they reach Singapore, it’s merely a tame tropical depression with great surf conditions.

Yet, our counterparts in the international community are not as lucky as us. Natural disasters often disrupt the life of the natives – damaging infrastructure, costing massive amounts of money to recover from the damage, causing a temporary halt to economic activities and worst of all, resulting in high death tolls and injuries. Here are some natural disasters around the world in the month of April:

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1. Lima, Peru – Flood and mudslides: Death toll continues to rise 

Floods and mudslides have been afflicting Peru since the start of the year. The death toll is currently at 113 as of 19 April. The heavy rains have been affecting the South American country all year round, causing rivers to reach high levels, forcing people to leave the place. An estimated million homes have been damaged and more than 2,500 kilometres of road have been destroyed.

In a latest update, the National Center for Emergency Operations said that the recent natural calamity is because of a climate phenomenon called “coastal El Nino”.

CNN reported on March 20 that half a million people in and around the country’s capital, Lima, have been affected by storms and flooding. President of Peru, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski has said the country will need some US$9 billion (S$12.5 billion) to rebuild and modernise the affected areas. He said: “We know it is a difficult situation, but we are controlling it, and we are hopeful that it will soon pass”.
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2. Naypyidaw, Myanmar – Cyclone Maarutha 

Image of Cyclone Maarutha churning above the Bay of Bengal captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite.
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Cyclone Maarutha caused a storm to move over land on the Rakhine coast of Myanmar on the night of April 17. The landfall was first classified as a tropical depression on April 15 in the Bay of Bengal, according to Aljazeera.

Relief web reported: Three people were killed in Irrawaddy Division as Cyclone Maarutha made landfall on Arakan State’s coast and swept through southern coastal Burma on Sunday (Apr 16).

The town Thandwe was swept by the cyclone with winds at 60km/h and steady, heavy rain. The cyclone continued but weakened as it passed the rugged terrain of the region. This cyclone is the first tropical cyclone in the northern hemisphere. This cyclone season usually leads up to the southwest monsoon.
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3. Wellington, New Zealand – Double trouble Cyclone Debbie and Cyclone Cook

Image of Cyclone Cook sweeping through the South Pacific before approaching New Zealand taken by NASA.
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April isn’t a particularly good month for New Zealand as it was first hit by Cyclone Debbie and then Cyclone Cook.

In the first week of April, the tail-end of Cyclone Debbie devastated the Bay of Plenty town of Edgecumbe, forcing its 2,000 residents to flee with only a few minutes’ warning. Although flooding eventually became less severe than anticipated, hundreds of trees have fallen, and police said many roads had been closed in the North Island. State of emergency was activated in Bay of Plenty and Thames-Coromandel, with the defence force assisting in moving residents to higher ground and keeping people away from the coast. Fortunately, there are no reported deaths due to Cyclone Debbie.

About a week later, New Zealand was hit by Cyclone Cook on April 13. It struck New Zealand with power outages, fallen trees and landslides reported around much of the central and eastern North Island, which bore the brunt of the storm. Forecasters feared that Cyclone Cook could be the worst storm to strike New Zealand since 1968. There is also no known deaths due to Cyclone Cook.
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4. Manila, Philippines – Earthquake Swarm

Image of a Filipino villager walking past a tilted shanty at a coastal village in the earthquake-hit town of Taal, Batangas province, Philippines taken by Francis R. Malasig.
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The Philippines was hit by an earthquake swarm, which is when a local area experiences sequences of many earthquakes striking in a relatively short period of time, on April 8.

Three quakes ranging in magnitude from 5.0 to 5.9 struck Batangas province, about 90 km (55 miles) south of Manila, around 3 p.m. (0700 GMT) over a period of about 20 minutes, said the U.S. Geological Survey. Hundreds of residents of coastal areas in a province south of the Philippine capital fled to higher ground fearing a tsunami on after a series of earthquakes on the main island of Luzon. However, the earthquake swarm was not powerful enough to cause a tsunami according to Head of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology Dr Renato Solidum.

While there were no reports of casualties, power was cut off in some in some areas and cracks were reported in homes and some commercial buildings. Landslides were also reported in some towns and a portion of a Catholic church tower that had collapsed.

The Philippines sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” where earthquakes and volcanoes are common. An earthquake of magnitude 7.7 killed nearly 2,000 people on the northern island of Luzon in 1990.

 

Featured image by Sean Chong.

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Morning Call, 0830, clock

HONG Kong authorities will return the nine seized Terrex Infantry Carriers to Singapore, saying that their investigations have been concluded. The Straits Times (ST) ran with an upbeat headline while TODAY sounded cautionary notes and highlighted points of friction.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong wrote to HK Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying to thank him for Hong Kong’s cooperation in the outcome.

What is new is that Hong Kong customs has finally given a reason for the seizure: “because there was a suspected breach of the Hong Kong law”. It warned, however, that prosecution may still follow if laws have been broken. It wasn’t clear why Hong Kong customs had not given this reason earlier in the saga.

Another Hong Kong law that may have been breached is the right of Sovereign immunity that the Terrexes enjoy as property of Singapore – they are supposed to be immune to seizure or any form of constraint abroad.

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No word on exactly when they will be coming back to home ground, but shipping time from Hong Kong to Singapore is at best six days via the APL route the Terrexes were originally on.

Look out the window – is it over yet? The heavy monsoon rainfall over the last day or so was due to peter out by Tuesday evening. Singapore suffered traffic-stopping floods, er, I mean ponding, but the downpour also caused havoc in Malaysia. More than 2,000 were affected by flooding in Johor as the state opened up 29 evacuation centres.

More rain is expected for the rest of January, according to the met services. Hopefully it doesn’t dampen the Lunar New Year spirit.

More “debts” will be repaid: Two unions, Singapore Industrial and Services Employees’ Union (Siseu) and Building Construction and Timber Industries Employees’ Union (Batu) are pushing for ex-gratia payments for the 54 workers who were fired and publicly called poor performers by Surbana Jurong.

The unions maintain that due process was not followed in the sackings, and decried Surbana group chief executive Wong Heang Fine’s email to the company that denounced the workers.

Ex-gratia payments are different from retrenchment benefits as they are for past services rather than a termination benefit.

So was it a retrenchment disguised as something else? Was Surbana trying to avoid paying benefits to the workers? Surbana has backpedalled somewhat on the sackings, and is now “committed to work out something amicably and expeditiously” with the unions. MOM is still investigating.

Who wants to sponsor 2,330 bikes? The Land Transport Authority is looking for a “respectable brand” to pilot a bike sharing scheme in Jurong Lake District, Marina Bay and Tampines/Pasir Ris. The scheme could account for a million bike trips a day, mostly first/last-mile transport to and from MRT stations and short trips in the neighbourhood.

Sponsors will have naming rights to the scheme as well as brand placement on the bikes, docking stations and other infrastructure.

The cost? No figures have been announced yet but it is expected to run into millions. New York City’s bike sharing sponsorship cost Citigroup some S$58 million. That’s quite an ang pow.

 

 

Featured image from TMG file.

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A flip clock showing 8:30am
Morning call at 8.30!

THE good news? Those who take trips to Tuas will have an easier time of it with the new 4.8km viaduct that will open on Feb 18 and four new MRT stations – Tuas Link, Tuas West Road, Tuas Crescent and Gul Circle – that will open in the second quarter.

The bad news? SMRT’s East-West line broke down again, with some commuters experiencing delays of an hour. The fault affected a stretch from Joo Koon to Clementi. Hang on, Joo Koon connects to Tuas. Oh bother.

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The good news? You can pay for your hour-delayed train ride with a fitness tracker now. Well, two specific fitness trackers, to be precise. One is the Garmin vivosmart HR with EZ-Link (S$259) available from March.

The bad news? The other is the Batman v Superman Fitness Tracker X EZ-Link (S$42.80), by Chinese company Watchdata. Yes, it has a Batman v Superman logo on it, making it a clear winner for Batman v Superman fans, all 36 of you.

The good news? There will be 8,795 Certificates of Entitlement (COEs) available each month from February to April, an increase of 8.9 per cent over the previous round. It doesn’t mean more cars on the road, though – the COE supply comes from old vehicles getting de-registered.

The bad news? Analysts and car salesmen don’t expect a significant dip in prices as there is a backlog of orders, plus the number of COEs available for motorcycles and goods vehicles is actually dropping, so prices of those are expected to rise.

The good news? The first Singapore-made electric super-car, the Dendrobium by Vanda Electric (very Singaporean names), will debut at the Geneva Motorshow in March. The 1,500 horsepower, 4,000 Nm torque, 1-100 in 2.6 seconds, two-seater was first announced early in 2016 and is developed together with Williams Advanced Engineering.

The bad news? Upper Thomson Road flooded again. This time it wasn’t as severe as it was in December, and the shin-high waters subsided in less than an hour. No businesses were affected by the flooding. It wasn’t clear if the contractor fingered for the last deluge also had a part to play this time around.

And, oh, President-elect Donald Trump will be sworn into office today.

 

 

Featured image from TMG file.

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PRINCESS Leia is dead. Hollywood celebrity Carrie Fisher died yesterday (Dec 27), days after a heart attack while on a flight from London to Los Angeles. She was 60.

Fisher’s death is the latest in a string of celebrity casualties this year. Three days ago, on Christmas Day, singer George Michael passed away at age 53 – also from heart failure. Other celebrities who died this year include Prince, David Bowie, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Alan Rickman. Here’s a list.

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Fisher, who was the daughter of American actress Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher, came to international fame for her portrayal of Princess Leia in the Star Wars films.

Sporting an iconic hairstyle with two spiral side twists, the character became an instant sex symbol after appearing in a gold bikini in Return of the Jedi.

Last month, Fisher began promoting her new memoir, The Princess Diarist, in which she revealed a three-month love affair with then co-star Harrison Ford, who was married at the time. Ford played Han Solo in the movie franchise.

News of her death prompted an outpour of condolences on social media. Here’s a selection.

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile, expect gloomier days ahead – literally, with passing showers predicted over the next few days, and heavier rainfall during the weekend. Meteorological experts say the region will continue to be hit by wet weather.

The worst-hit so far appears to be in the Philippines, where Typhoon Nock-Ten has claimed six lives. Eighteen people have been reported missing. In Singapore, flash floods caused shoppers to wade through ankle-deep water on Christmas Eve in the Orchard and Upper Thomson areas.

 

 

Featured image from TMG file.

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NEVER mind terrorists. Mother Nature can pack a hefty punch too. In Asia, she made the earth move and turned parts of India and Myanmar into a pile of rubble. She didn’t spare historic sites such as the centuries-old Buddhist pagodas in Myanmar’s ancient capital Bagan.  She did the same for Italy, unleashing a 6.2 magnitude earthquake.

In the United States, she’s flooded wide stretches of southern Louisiana with more than two feet of water.

Use the map below to track Mother Nature’s work this week. Our selection of quotes shows the destruction that Man can do too.

Frenchman charged with murder of British backpacker at Australia hostel

“There’s no one that can view that CCTV that doesn’t come away feeling sick to the stomach. It’s absolutely horrific.”

— Superintendent Ray Rohweder, regional crime co-ordinator in Australia’s Northern Region

On Thursday (Aug 25), Frenchman Smail Ayad, 29, was charged with two counts of attempted murder, 12 counts of serious assault and one count of serious animal cruelty. He stabbed British backpacker Miss Mia Ayliffe-Chung, 21, to death on Tuesday night (Aug 23) at a hostel in Home Hill in Townsville, Queensland. One other backpacker, Mr Chris Porter, said to The Telegraph that the alleged knifeman, Miss Ayliffe-Chung, and himself had been staying in the same room. Authorities have played down any links to terrorism while they investigate whether Mr Ayad had an obsession or was infatuated with Miss Ayliffe-Chung.

Would-be child suicide bomber in Iraq caught

“They tell them if they do this, they will go to heaven and have a good time and get everything that they ever wanted”

— Najmaldin Karim, the governor of Kirkuk Governorate, on how ISIS brainwashed the child

On Sunday (Aug 21), Iraqi police stopped Hussein, 15, a would-be child suicide bomber for ISIS in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk. The child was on his way to the Shia mosque when he was nabbed by security guards who noticed something off with him and were on the alert for suspicious behaviour after a suicide bomb attack occurred just an hour before. Recently, ISIS has been increasingly deploying child suicide bombers to stage attacks in Iraq and Syria.

16 dead in Kabul raid on a university

“Everyone looked around the room looking for an escape… We have an emergency exit area in the corner of the campus. It’s like a gate that opens when people need to get out of campus. Everyone was running out of there.”

—An anonymous student at the scene, on what happened when they heard the first blast during a lecture

A nearly ten-hour long attack on the American University in Kabul which began Wednesday evening (Aug 24) has left at least 16 dead, including eight students and injuring 53 others. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack where gunmen detonated explosives and fired guns, causing students to flee or find a safe place to hide in the university. The attack comes after the abduction of two university employees – an American and an Australian – at gunpoint near the institution a few weeks ago. Kabul police have since described the attack as “complex”.

Truck driver playing Pokemon Go kills woman in Japan 

“The driver is still in custody. No decision has been made yet on whether to proceed with a prosecution”

— A spokesman for the Tokushima prefectural police

A 39-year-old truck driver hit two elderly female pedestrians in the Japanese city of Tokushima on Wednesday (Aug 24) at around 7.35pm, killing the older one and seriously injuring the other. Farmer Mr Keiji Goo told police he was distracted by Pokemon Go and was not paying attention to the wheel when he hit Ms Sachiko Nakanishi, 72, and Ms Kayoko Ikawa, 60 . This is the first Pokemon Go related death in Japan. Niantic and Nintendo, the companies behind the game, expressed condolences to the victim’s families and said they were working to “create an environment where people can play the game safely.”

North Korea’s successful missile tests

“This poses a grave threat to Japan’s security, and is an unforgivable act that damages regional peace and stability markedly” 

— Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

On Wednesday (Aug 24), at around 5.30am local time, North Korea launched a ballistic missile off a submarine from the coastal city of Sinpo. The missile is believed to have flown around 500 kilometres before landing in the Sea of Japan, marking the first time a North Korean missile has entered Japan’s air defence identification zone. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un considered the missile test to be the “greatest success and victory” according to the state-run news agency. The country’s alarming development in missile technology has shook the foreign ministers of Japan, South Korea, and China, who came together in Tokyo to condemn North Korea’s missile launch earlier in the day.

Featured image planet-earth-space by Flickr user Adamo CorazzaCC BY-ND 2.0. 

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Black clock showing 8.30.

MORE than 70 people are dead in two earthquakes that struck in central Italy and Myanmar yesterday (Aug 24). In Italy, the 6.2-magnitude quake was the strongest since 2009, during which more than 300 people in the city of L’Aquila were killed.

Hardest hit this time was the town of Amatrice, home of the popular pasta sauce amatriciana. Said its mayor: “Half the village has disappeared.”

In Myanmar, at least three people were killed by a separate quake incident which also damaged about 100 ancient Buddhist pagodas in Bagan. The former capital of Myanmar is also a major tourist site.

Meanwhile in India, heavy monsoon rains have caused the Ganges river to burst its banks, flooding villages and claiming at least 300 lives. About 6 million people have been affected after the floods destroyed power and phone lines, roads, crops and left villages submerged in water, officials said.

Closer to home, we’re worrying about deaths at work. Workplace fatality rate is expected to rise this year from 1.9 to 2.2 per 100,000 workers, with already 48 deaths recorded so far, said Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say at a workplace safety conference yesterday.

Most of the deaths were related to unsafe practices by workers and a lack of safety measures by companies.

Moving on to disease: A pre-school in Bukit Batok began screening its pupils and staff yesterday after a teacher was diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB) last week.

The Little Greenhouse located in Bukit Batok St 31 has 104 children – from 18 months to six years old. Screening began only yesterday because the assessment by Tan Tock Seng’s TB Control Unit took time, and permission was needed from the children’s parents, said an executive of the school’s parent company, Global EduHub.

From 10am to 10pm today, members of the public may pay their last respects to Mr S R Nathan at Parliament House, where his body will remain before the State Funeral tomorrow.

The funeral tomorrow will be held at the University Cultural Centre from 3pm to 5pm.

If you have time to read only one tribute to the former president today, make it the one by Ambassador-at-Large Bilahari Kausikan, who spoke at his wake yesterday. Read it here.

 

Featured image from TMG file.

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A Casio digital watch showing 8:30 by Shawn Danker
A Casio digital watch showing 8:30

GOOD morning! We thought we’ll just let you have some Saturday viewing for your daily news dose.

First up is a video of a Toyota Camry driver who looks like he’s deliberately swerving into the side of a motorcycle along the Ayer-Rajah Expressway near the Clementi exit. He succeeded in knocking the motorcyclist and pillion rider off the bike. They’re not badly injured and took themselves to hospital. Thing is, there seemed to have been two other instances  – in November 2014 and April 2015 – where a Toyota Camry, bearing the same licence plate number, has been filmed changing lanes recklessly on an expressway. This video was taken by Zufar Khan Ismail Khan.

Then this video is for those who welcomed the rain as a respite from the hot and sticky weather we’ve been getting. Those in Jurong East found themselves caught in flash floods that reached waist-high and some had to be rescued from stranded cars. Thessa Huìyīng put this up on her FB page.

You might know by now about the Bukit Batok West Avenue 6 sheltered walkway which collapsed yesterday after being hit by the boom of a crane being ferried on a lorry. How the lorry driver must be kicking himself for forgetting to lower the boom. He’s been arrested. Not to worry, the area’s safe and no one’s hurt except that one poor stationary car which was crushed in the process. Here’s something from ST on another crane removing the walkway shelter.

No video here unless there’s a CCTV camera inside the lift at Bukit Batok East Avenue 3 which joined other misbehaving lifts in causing injury. A retiree in the lift, who had felt a jerk midway, tripped when she got off at the landing because the lift wasn’t level with the ground. She fractured both her wrists. The Building and Construction Authority is now telling lift owners and contractors to report any lift safety malfunctions quickly. And no, it hasn’t escaped us that this took place in Bukit Batok too.

We’re wondering if there’s a video here since maid employers are fond of monitoring the movements of their domestic help. Except you wouldn’t put CTTV where the maid is sharing a room with a man in the house would you? A survey by Transient Workers Count Too, an NGO, showed that four in 10 maids share a room with someone. Of the 171 who do,  22 were with males. The breakdown: 11 shared a room with a male aged 12 to 19 and the rest with older men. Unless its an elderly person who needs help because of a disability, employers probably don’t realise they can be fined up to $10,000 or jailed up to a year or both for making the maid sleep in the same room as a male teenager or adult. But then again, there’s such a thing as common sense? Right?

 

Featured image from TMG File.

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by Rohini Samtani

AFTER the General Manager of Hilton Singapore blamed the rain for the collapse of its driveway ceiling on Sunday, building experts have come out to back his claim, saying that the abnormal volume of rain might have leaked into the false ceiling, which is not designed to bear with this excessive weight. Singapore has witnessed its highest amount of rainfall in six years, and the Orchard Road area recorded the highest rainfall in the city of 327mm.

This, however, was not an isolated rain related incident in the shopping belt over the last two weeks. A water seepage from heavy rain was confirmed to have caused a power cut in Orchard Central mall on Saturday, forcing the mall to close early on a busy holiday shopping day. Heavy rain also reportedly caused a tree to fall on Orchard Road on Friday, blocking the movement of traffic.

The shopping belt has had a turbulent history with the rain disrupting its businesses. Here are a few recent incidents of flooding at Orchard Road and what was done about it.

1. Flash flood at Orchard Road in June 2010

Singaporeans might remember the flooding on Orchard Road in June 2010, where knee-high water collected along the shopping belt caused it to shut down temporarily. A blockage of the Stamford Canal, the drain that runs along orchard road, was reported to have caused the flood. To tackle the problem, the Public Utilities Board (PUB) installed additional debris traps in the Stamford Canal, as well as in the upstream drains leading to it. It also said that its officers would now hold monthly instead of quarterly inspections of the canal, along with installing more sensors in the canal to better monitor its water level. Following this incident, PUB undertook a $26 million project on a 1.4km stretch of road to increase its height by up to 50cm.

Liat Towers was of the worst hit in these, with the shops in the basement being completely submerged by flood waters. A then three-day old Wendy’s fast food outlet had to be closed for three to six weeks to repair its damages. The Kopitiam outlet said that the flood-damaged equipment and infrastructure were worth more than $500,000, on top of perishable items. In response, a pop-up anti-flood barrier was installed – a contraption that lies flat against the floor when not in use, but turns into a 36m-long and 90cm-tall sealed barrier against flood waters when activated. The $200,000 project was installed by the management of the shopping centre, which houses various luxury brands including Hermès and Massimo Dutti.

2. June 2011 flooding

In 2011, Orchard Road was again one of the hardest hit by heavy rain with indoor flooding in Tanglin Mall, Forum Galleria, Traders Hotel and St. Regis residences. There was a software glitch in PUB’s alert system that would text message shop owners whenever its sensors detected high water levels. As a result, Tanglin Mall shop owners and St. Regis residents were not prepared for the flooding. The water agency said it mobilised staff and contractors to the sites when it received alerts of heavy rain, deploying tankers to pump out water from their basements as a response. It also enhanced its flood monitoring system by raising the number of water-level sensors in key canals and drains from 32 in 2010 to 150 by the end of 2011.

3. December 2011 “ponding” at Liat Towers

For the second time that year, heavy rains caused flash floods, affecting Liat Towers, Lucky Plaza and Ngee Ann City and other areas around Orchard Road. PUB ascertained that “there was no flooding at Orchard Road. However, water ponded at the open area of Liat Towers, the underpass between Lucky Plaza and Ngee Ann City, and the basement of Lucky Plaza”. The floods raised questions about the effectiveness of flood-reducing measures in the area that were mentioned above, including the flood gates installed at Liat Towers, and the project to raise the height of the stretch. PUB clarified that this “ponding” did not cause the Stamford Canal to overflow, which had been the cause of the December 2010 flooding.

Orchard Road and various streets around it have been categorised as flood “hotspots” by PUB, which are defined as areas that are not low-lying, but “with a history of flooding”. PUB has been responsible for reducing flood-prone areas in Singapore from about 3,200ha in the 1970s to 34ha today, through its numerous drainage improvement works. However, excessive amount of rainfall as a result of climate change cannot be accounted for in these measures.

 

Featured image Orchard Road Christmas Lights in the Rain by Flickr user Chris HoareCC BY 2.0.

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