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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Black clock showing 8.30

TODAY, let us tell you a sad story.

This is about a mother of two boys, one of whom has an autistic disorder, who snapped. She ended up pushing her seven year old son out of the kitchen window. He fell nine storeys and died.

The day had begun badly for her. She was having a cold war with her husband. He didn’t take in the laundry even though it was raining. When he finally did – after being shouted at – he threw the poles and wet laundry on the floor. Then he left the house with their older boy, 14, who had to go for tuition. So there was the 43 year old housewife, left to pick up after his mess.

Then those neighbours opposite her block appeared to be staring at her, and she returned their attention with a rude gesture. But it also seemed that some of her laundry poles had fallen off in the rain. So she got on a stool set by the kitchen window to see if she could spot them. But she felt dizzy doing so. She had a shower and went out into the living room only to see that her seven year old had defecated in his pants and fallen asleep in front of the TV. There’s more cleaning and washing for her to do. That was when she saw that the stool was still by the open kitchen window. And she saw the boy. She got him to stand on the stool to look out for his grandmother. He did so. Then she held him by his calves and tilted him over.

When police came, she was hugging a pillow. Eyes closed. In a daze. She was jailed five years yesterday for her action in September, 2014.

How little we know about what goes behind the doors of a household. How the little stresses can build up and finally explode in one action that will cause a lifetime of regret. She was depressed and saw the boy as the source of her exhaustion. It seemed she had a “mental history” since 2008 and is now getting psychiatric treatment in prison.

The husband and remaining son seem to be firmly behind her. They wrote letters to the court saying they want to be re-united with her. They’ve moved out of the flat. You wonder what they must be going through and how much blame they place on the woman – or on themselves. If the husband had only taken in the laundry…?

Now that that’s over, let’s talk about the weather. Yes, it’s hot but it’s not going to hit 40 degree celsius as in neighbouring Malaysia, where one person has died and 13 are ill because of the heat wave.  But go easy on the cold shower, the reservoirs next door are running low, and we’re topping up our own with Newater.

Also get prepared for two things to happen:

a. There will be plenty of Lee Kuan Yew memorial events given that his first death anniversary is on March 23. Expect the news to be full of it. We’re no different. We’ll be taking Lee Kuan Yew back…into the future. Watch out for our series.

b. There will be more talk about hardening up Singapore in the wake of a significant speech by Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam yesterday about concrete measure to deter terrorists. You can read our report here. If you wonder whether the G is going overboard with its surveillance and response measures, we tell you how they stack up against what other countries do.

 

Featured image by The Middle Ground.

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A LITTLE chilly this morning? You’re not imagining it. The forecast is for a wet week, with rain every day until Friday, usually in the evenings, brought to the island by the North-East monsoon. Up north and east, from Hanoi to Hong Kong to Seoul to Tokyo to Taipei and across China, the lowest temperatures in more than 20 years have been recorded. Even “tropical” Bangkok chilled to 16 degrees on Sunday and Monday. Have a brolly handy please, and bring a jacket.

You can catch the summary of yesterday’s parliament sitting in our report . The standouts? Acting Education Minister Ong Ye Kung’s speech where he called for a less numbers-focused approach to governance, and a focus on “what truly matters – the worth of an individual, the standing of institutions, people and country”. On the other side of the House, Ms Sylvia Lim asked that Singaporeans be allowed to take ownership of the nation by the G “devolving more power”.

What has devolved, however, is the state of littering in this fine city. Stepped-up enforcement has nabbed the highest number of litterbugs for six years in 2015, and there’s nobody to blame but Citizens and Permanent Residents, who made up nearly 70 per cent of those caught.

On the topic of paying the piper, ERP rates at five gantries are set to go up by $1 effective Feb 1. The five gantries essentially cover two traffic segments, AYE after Jurong Town Hall towards the City and PIE at the Adam Road and Mt Pleasant Road stretch. Here are the details from the horse’s mouth.

More has been revealed about the fatal Alexandra canal crash – the two deceased were Madam Yep Lay Choo, 51, and her daughter Kimberly Poon, 22, wife and only child of Mr Robin Poon, 50. The family were at lunch just hours before the incident but Madam Yep wanted to spend more time with her daughter and took her shopping. The family had owned the Mercedes for three years before the accident where the car plowed through bushes and barriers before plunging into the canal where it sank quickly and overturned. Divers retrieved their bodies 30 minutes after the crash.

A distraught Mr Poon said that his wife was a skilled, experienced driver who even held a Class 4 heavy vehicle license and has never been in an accident before. Mr Poon was told that the car “skidded”, but it is still unclear how exactly the crash happened.

 

Featured image by The Middle Ground.

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GOOD Monday all! Are you working today or already planning the year-end vacation because of the long school break? Yup, it’s Nov 30 and the last month of the year starts tomorrow.

And probably to take advantage of the fact that students are on vacation, the G is launching (yet) another public engagement exercise. Remember the Our Singapore Conversation (OSC) which some of you might have taken part in and wonder what happened to it? The G is using the results of that conversation as a base to launch a discussion about the future. You can go to www.singapore50.sg/sgfuture to sign up. Now, if we only remember what we said at the OSC…

A third person has died of dengue this year – and no, the 79-year-old man’s residence in Toa Payoh Lorong 8 isn’t a dengue hot spot. It’s worth noting, however, that the intermittent rain-and-shine we’ve been getting is conducive to mosquito breeding and more dengue cases are being detected over the past few weeks.

Here’s the tally:

Week ending Nov 14 – 198 cases

Week ending Nov 21 – 254 cases

That’s a big jump. For the week ending 3pm on Nov 27, there were 228 cases. Here’s hoping the numbers will go down over the weeks.

Talking about the weather…The world is getting together in Paris to discuss climate change and how to prevent catastrophe because we treat the Earth like a garbage bin. Business Times has an excellent spread on climate change issues and what Singapore is doing to stop us from being boiled alive in the future (Our average daily temperature last year was now 27.7 degree Celsius, compared to 26.6 degree Celsius in 1972, while sea levels in the straits of Singapore rose at the rate of 1.2 – 1.7mm a year between  1975 and 2009). Maybe that should be a primary subject for the SGfuture series of dialogues that is being conducted.

There’s also an interesting article from Dr Jeremy Lim in TODAY calling on visits to the GPs and polyclinics to be made “free”, as in financed by taxes and insurance. He said spending on preventive healthcare might be the best way to get people to look after their health than looking at the hospitalisation end of the spectrum, which is where the focus is now.

Oh. And the big bad boy of Sim Lim, Jover Chew, is being sentenced today. Will or will he not get the three years jail the prosecution asked for? Stay tuned.

 

Featured image by Najeer Yusof. 

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It’s Wednesday, June 17, and the SEA Games is over.  Sigh. No more edge-of-the-seat tension and watching the fit and trim perform athletic feats – and wondering why you’re nowhere near as agile, strong or fast as the sportsmen. Host Singapore got a record treasure chest of 84 Gold, 73 Silver, and 102 Bronze medals, which the Prime Minister described as a fitting tribute to SG50. No, we’re not No. 1; that spot belongs to Thailand with 95 Golds. But still!

One big piece of news is that we’re looking underground to store storm water. We’ve already got Jurong Caverns and SAF Ammo Dump down under and now the G is calling a tender to do a feasibility study for underground reservoirs. Guess if we can’t grow sideways, we go downwards. If the studies show it can be done, there will be digging somewhere, hopefully, in some far and ulu place. But it’s this sort of big idea that has made this place exceptional and self-reliant. Remember Newater?

If you wondered about yesterday’s weather, which was a miserable drizzly grey most of the day, we’re not going to get more of such, according to the weatherman. Get prepared for a hot, sticky and drier second half of June, even a bit of haze.

Frankly, nothing much happened in Singapore yesterday; all eyes were on the SEA Games.

Guess the celebrations leading up to August 9 will be in full swing from now…

 

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