December 26, 2011 – 2:48 pm



Pictures posted on the net. Click on the panels for a better view.



It rained “cats and dogs” in $heep City, $ingapore on December 23, 2011. In $ingapore’s main street Orchard Road, with the heavy downpour, the flood barricades at Liat Tower were activated but it wasn’t enough to prevent the flooding there. Both popular eatery venues, Wendy’s Restaurant and Starbucks, at Liat Tower were flooded. Wendy’s even had to evacuate their customers to safety. A spokesman of Wendy’s said there was something wrong with the barricade system and their business had been affected by 60 per cent.

Elsewhere, flash floods had also been reported at Cuscaden Road, Newton Circus, Kampong Java, Cambridge Road, Thomson Road and Bukit Timah near Sixth Ave.

Read a report here.

The very next day, the nation-builder press of $ingapore reported about it. The public utilities body said “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 due to the sustained heavy downpour,” it added.

The ponding at Starbucks at Liat Towers.

“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,” said a spokesman.

The $ingapore government insisted there was no flood at all. Just “ponding” of water.

Report here.

Admiral Chew Men Leong.

On December 26, the new PUB CEO, Admiral Chew Men Leong, who formally took over the top position of the public utilities body on Dec 7 spoke to the press. This former Chief of Navy joined PUB as its designated head in July this year before formally taking over two weeks ago.

Rear Admiral Chew said: “Since I came into PUB, I have a better understanding of what we have done previously. The amount of effort that PUB has actually taken to help alleviate floods and make Singapore generally flood-free… I think it’s important to understand that we have been relatively successful.”

“But maybe we have also become victims of own success. Because we have been so successful, alleviating floods, that we have not seen a flood situation for a long time. So when it came, it did catch Singaporeans by surprise.”

As CEO, it was probably his decision to call it “ponding”.

Admiral Chew is a $ingapore Army scholar. He studied at the United Kingdom’s Imperial College and graduated in 1990 with a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering with First Class Honours. In 2001, he received another Army postgrad scholarship to study Masters in Management at Stanford University.

More here.

$ingapore is led by Prime Minister General Lee Hsien Loong (Cambridge, Harvard) who is aided by Deputy PM Admiral Teo Chee Hean (U of Manchester, Imperial College, Harvard). Others in the ruling cabinet include Admiral Lui Tuck Yew (Cambridge) who heads the transport ministry. The Community Development Minister is former Army head, General Chan Chun Sing (Cambridge, MIT). A former Foreign Minister was General George Yeo (Cambridge, Harvard).

Many former senior military men manage government-linked companies and the civil service.

What do you readers think? Does education make you a plain-speaking, straight-talker?

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EDITOR’S NOTE: $ingapore’s public utilities have come back to the issue of “ponding” at Liat Towers. Here’s a report from TR Emeritus, a Singapore website.

PUB blames Liat Tower’s building management for its ‘ponding’

On Dec 23, 2011, heavy rain caused Liat Towers at Orchard Rd to be flooded. Liat Towers’ basement tenants, Wendy’s and Starbucks, had to evacuate their customers as flood water entered the outlets. This is the third time Liat Towers has been hit by floods in recent years, causing extensive damages to its tenants. Liat Towers was first hit by flood in Jun last year. It was hit again a second time one month later.

In a statement yesterday [Dec 27], Public Utilities Board (PUB) which has just been taken over by a Rear Admiral from the Navy, blamed the flood (ponding?) on Liat Towers’ inadequate pumping capacity to handle the heavy rain which fell for three continuous hours:

“The situation at Liat Towers was caused largely by the prolonged heavy rain which fell directly into the building’s open basement area. The outdoor area of Liat Towers is designed as a sunken plaza. The primary means to drain water away from the sunken plaza is through pumping.”

“Liat Towers had pumped the water collected in its sunken plaza onto the pedestrian walkway, not into the canal. The huge volume of rain water that fell continuously for three hours could have exceeded the building’s pumping capacity.”

But the building management of Liat Towers disagreed. A spokesman for Liat Towers said:

“The pumps were working at full blast but were not able to drain the water out into the canal because the canal was full. PUB has got to take care of the canal. If the canal causes backflow and flooding, no matter how many pumps you put in, there will still be a problem. The long-term solution is that the Government has to do something to the canal.”

NUS Civil Engineering Assistant Professor Vivien Chua seemed to agree with Liat Towers saying that if water is pumped into something that is already full, overflow would result.

In the discussion between PUB and Liat Towers, Liat Towers also pointed out that over the last 30 years since Liat Towers was built, it had never faced such severe flooding before last year.

PUB, on the other hand, was adamant that the building did not pump the flood water out fast enough. It maintained that with the right hydraulic pumps, ‘you can still pump water into the canal’.

PUB refuted the “canal overflow theory” saying that the heavy rain on Dec 23 did not cause the canal to overflow. If there was overflowing, water would have come out from the openings on the edge of Orchard Road.

PUB also denied that the latest incident was a flood but merely a “ponding”.

Instead of playing the word games with PUB, it may be better for Liat Towers to employ its own international civil engineering experts to challenge PUB in court and let the court (and the public) determine who is correct and if damages need to be paid.

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  2. engineers and floods seem to go hand in hand, ask New Orleans.
    Any group of educated people that wear a ring commemorating structural failure should not have anything to do with public safety.

    By sluggo on Dec 26, 2011

  3. Too proud to admit weakness or complete denial?

    By Phil Brickey on Dec 26, 2011

  4. Seems as though these views were based on shoppers continuing to show up at Orchard Road despite the rain. I read somewhere that most people were only there because it was a final chance to complete their holiday shopping and thus they braved the “non-flooded” flooded streets.

    By RondelRio on Dec 27, 2011

  5. Education does make you a plain speaking, straight talker - the problem is, some of the people who are in ‘high’ positions may not have the vocabulary to understand fully what the straight talkers are saying!. Maybe, the people who decide peopoles’ future on their behalf should re-examine their positions and admit that; “I’m not up to the job” and make way for those who are.

    By Daij on Dec 27, 2011

  6. Education gives you ability to state your thoughts more eloquently and clearly, but experience brings a cynicism saying this is not always the best course of action. The more plain spoken and understandable your statements, the easier it is to hold you accountable to them. People in power fear this, especially in a society which can spread your words worldwide and a legal system which can easily dissect them. Former USDA secretary Shirley Sherrod’s firing a year ago is one such example, her clear sounding statement on racial discrimination was misinterpreted, sent all over the Web by an ambitious Republican blogger, caused her to get fired and then to receive an apology after the Obama administration discovered their error and haste.

    Read the story here:

    By tony on Dec 27, 2011

  7. it has been considered many times in the past whether or not experts in the field make the best ones to take control or put in charge of such positions. someone who knows the field best isnt necessarily the best at teaching it to others. and in many cases the ones who are best at governing large bodies of people werent necessarily the most familiar with the subject at hand. however they were in a position to hire experts and advisors to give them the benefits of their research and learning so they (those in power) could best use it for the supposed good of the people. this is why we elect in a democracy the ones we feel have the greater likelihood to achieve the best results for the vast majority of those of us who elect them. sometimes this falls short but like our judicial system it is the best we have come up with to date. it sure beats communism and fascism and dictatorships and tyrany and anarchy etc.

    By darth on Dec 27, 2011

  8. Apparently not.

    By Peter Nixon on Dec 27, 2011

  9. Education & common sense are not always found walking hand in hand. The education does seem to come in handy for shifting the blame on to others.

    Here in the US we have The Army Corps of Engineers & The Bureau of Reclamation who seem to have quite a track record for designing large projects and dodging the results when things don’t go as planned. One of these once built a dam after soil testing one side of a canyon and then assuming the other side must be the same. They were very wrong.

    By Sking on Dec 27, 2011

  10. Typical government wordsmithing. Looks like a flood to me. Wonder if the merchants insurance covets water damage due to “ponding.”

    By john on Dec 27, 2011

  11. agree with sking,brains and common sense dont go hand in hand.

    By paul on Dec 27, 2011

  12. shit happens, you live in a monsoon area, expect to get wet from time to time. was anybody that is moaning actually out there helping put sandbags in place or helping people escape the floods. don’t be too quick to apportion blame if you haven’t offered to help as well

    By Liam NSW on Dec 27, 2011

  13. also, just be grateful no one died, is wendys selling less hamburgers really such a bad thing? in australia, last year, people died, one 10yo boy died saving his younger brother, have some perspective, shopping isn’t the meaning of life, even in singapore

    By Liam NSW on Dec 27, 2011

  14. Sticking their heads in the sand accomplishes nothing; and insulting the people by deflecting the issue by calling it something else entirely, diminishes their credibility.

    Officials need to officiate, and effectively address the matter(s) at hand…

    By Mr Dude on Dec 27, 2011

  15. Nice ponds :)

    By tim on Dec 28, 2011

  16. Sorry BigO, but someone has to respond to Liam NSW (who sounds like it’s time someone sponsored him for a one-way ticket to North Korea, cattle class).

    “… don’t be too quick to apportion blame if you haven’t offered to help as well - By Liam NSW”
    erm… Mate, no-one apportioned blame - the point is that people are trying to dismiss FLOODING, apparently in the hope that stupid people will believe them. Sadly, as your comment shows, it obviously works ;)

    “… also, just be grateful no one died … have some perspective… - By Liam NSW”
    Mate (hey, is that ‘NSW’ address for real?!) I tried to imagine you were being funny - as in making a joke to highlight the stupidity of the $ingaporean authorities - but my brain keeps saying “no, Liam’s a dickhead who has missed the point, twice”.

    OK. end of response. normal service will resume shortly :D

    By the Real tony ( :p ) on Dec 28, 2011

  17. Clearly, when you’ve been Chief of Navy, any body of water smaller than the Pacific Ocean is a “pond”. Hell, it’s not the Government’s fault some people lack perspective!

    As Admiral Chew Men Leong [must have thought but has not yet] said: “Trust me… from the bridge of a 3200-ton, 115-metre Formidable class frigate, that really looks like ponding!”

    By the Real tony ( :p ) on Dec 28, 2011

  18. Having a good education does not change the fact these government bureaucrats have to save face. Plain and simple.

    By Mackster on Dec 28, 2011

  19. Sluggo stated it very well…engineers and floods seem to go hand in hand. I would add one thing to this…don’t forget the military had a hand in New Orleans as well as the most recent tragedy in Singapore. Speak the truth & people will believe.

    By Bubbles on Dec 28, 2011

  20. Just Like New Orleans

    By Keith Ahlstrom on Dec 29, 2011

  21. Although education is necessary to communication, it is not necessarily the pathway to truth. Our leaders often forsake the truth in an effort to portray a look of accomplishment or to alleviate public panic. In my opinion, truth should be first on the agenda. The public can learn to deal with the rest.

    By Tom Billings on Dec 29, 2011

  22. A disaster by any other name…
    Just investigate and fix the problem(s) so it doesn’t happen again. How easy is that?

    By golgo hakase on Dec 29, 2011

  23. The world of nowadays…

    By Rochacrimson on Dec 30, 2011

  24. “Always Deny” seems to be the “number 1 rule” for any government all over the world, no matter what… “Always Deny”…

    By giotto on Jan 2, 2012

  25. That’s bad, so bad.

    By Rioo on Jan 3, 2012

  26. this government uses the “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” form of governing!!!

    By John McNea on Jan 3, 2012

  27. …and the folks who reported the flooding “acted stupidly” (to quote another Harvard-educated bureaucrat).

    By TDC on Jan 3, 2012

  28. I may have missed something here, discussing the pros and cons of democracy “it sure beats communisim facisim ……. etc”. An ADMIRAL was ‘appointed’? Democracy????? Sounds like a government controlled by the military to me.

    By sebrof on Jan 4, 2012

  29. Always deny may be rule #1 for tolitarian societies - especially those pretending to be democratic - i.e. Russia and South Korea - but if the Arab Spring proved anything, it’s that truth can be exposed, when people are willing to take personal risk. It’s a miracle no one died, but the damage is still devestating and was preventable.

    By Terry on Jan 4, 2012

  30. Obviously education does not make one a plain speaking, straight-talker. It makes one smart enough to know that his job is maintain the public’s confidence in their government. He’s the Minister of Propaganda in this case.

    By steve22 on Jan 4, 2012

  31. Foolish people, how could they have let themselves get caught in a pond?

    By NAMoosedog on Jan 5, 2012

  32. Maybe he meant to say they took a pounding…somebody ought pound him… not sure why no one thought of calling water boarding water ponding…. it sounds so much more fun

    By dogtears on Jan 6, 2012

  33. A government that lies to its people, instead of serving and protecting its people, is not a legitimate government, and should be replaced by a democratic government whose power derives from the people and their votes.

    By Mike Hansen on Jan 7, 2012

  34. If a job costs 10 million to do it right. They will say they don’t have the money and do it for 5 million. Smart thinking.

    By Ron on Jan 8, 2012

  35. The ‘ponding’ issue has been tried in the USA too. In the Spring of 2010 there were heavy rains for days hitting the New York City metro area. I was living in East Hampton then, near Three Mile Harbor. The water from the harbor starting rising up onto the road across from my house. The town tried pumping it back into the harbor. You can figure out how well that worked without an engineering degree. Eventually, the water began coming into area basements, ruining anything stored there over the winter. A town employee told me that they would keep pumping water back into the harbor until the water eventually receeded on it’s own. When my neighbors filed claims against their flood insurance policies, they were denied because the damage was not caused by ‘flooding’. The entire event was deemed to be an expansion of the bay that made the water table rise about a foot above the historic high water mark creating new ‘ponds’. Two months later there would be no evidence of the ‘ponds’, only the debris hauled out of the neighbors basements. All this in a town with one of the highest average real estate values in the world.

    By Johnny Kinkdom on Jan 10, 2012

  36. This is not the first time that heavy rain has resulted in flooding (ponding?) at Orchard. I recall it also occurred the previous year (or the one before?) I thought people were supposed to learn from their mistakes?

    By Ralph Phippard on Jan 13, 2012

  37. I stayed on Orchard road last year and can see that there would have been a lot of property damage if the water was in the street. Governments do not want to admit they are wrong.

    By Graham on Jan 16, 2012

  38. Hey, floods happen…it’s an act of God. But, it does seem like Climate Change is making it worse! We fight this in Chicago all of the time…have for years.

    By Dick Cole on Jan 17, 2012

  39. The weather pattern of the planet as we know it is changing. We are in a world-wide extreme weather cycle that will outlive us all.

    Is this a natural occurrence, or man-made global warming, or one fueling the other? The jury’s still out on that one.

    Know it, respect it, and live with it, but don’t think for a minute the current extreme weather cycle is just a seasonal phenomena.

    By O.B. Dan on Jan 28, 2012

  40. Typical political figures.. highly educated.. military background.. deflecting blame.. no surprises here..

    By Big Willie on Feb 5, 2012

  41. this means absolutely nothing to me whatsoever

    By matt_the_cat on May 16, 2012

  1. 2 Trackback(s)

  2. Oct 31, 2012: bigOfeature » Blog Archive » THE BigO PLAIN-SPEAKING, STRAIGHT-TALKING NO B.S. CONTEST No. 24
  3. Jan 17, 2013: bigOfeature » Blog Archive » THE BigO PLAIN-SPEAKING, STRAIGHT-TALKING NO B.S. CONTEST No. 26

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