Best of our wild blogs: 7 Jan 17

December RUMbles: kayak surveys, cleanup, walks and more!
Restore Ubin Mangroves (R.U.M.) Initiative

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'Good progress' in cleaning up Changi oil spill: MPA

Channel NewsAsia 6 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE: “Good progress” has been made in containing and cleaning up the oil spill in Singapore’s waters following the collision of two container vessels, said the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) on Friday (Jan 6).

The Tuesday night collision off Johor's Pasir Gudang port resulted in about 300 tonnes of oil being spilled.

At least three fish farms in the East Johor Straits were affected, with one farmer telling Channel NewsAsia on Thursday that he had already lost about 1,000 fish and that the damage could run up to S$700,000. Changi Beach was also partially closed for clean-up operations.

On Friday, MPA said that clean-up work is still going on at Changi Point Ferry Terminal, fish farms at Nenas Channel, and at Noordin Beach on the northern coast of Pulau Ubin.

Oil spill response vessels as well as containment booms and spill recovery equipment such as harbour busters, skimmers and absorbent booms and pads have also been deployed, said MPA.

It added that no new patches of oil have been spotted along the East Johor Straits.

Port operations remain unaffected, said MPA, adding that it and other Government agencies are monitoring the situation closely and will "carry out necessary clean-up efforts".

MPA said that members of the public who spot any oil patches in Singapore's waters or coastline can contact its 24-hour marine safety control centre at 63252488 or 63252489.

Separately, the National Parks Board (NParks) said the tides on Friday carried some oil to beaches in Pulau Ubin including Chek Jawa Wetlands. It said that over the weekend, it will be working with conservation volunteers to clean up Pulau Ubin's beaches. "These NParks volunteers will help clear contaminated sand and remove oil sludge in the affected areas. We will review requests from the public to support the clean-up operation on a case-by-case basis," said a spokesperson. NParks also said it is monitoring the impact of the oil spill on marine life.

- CNA/xk

Oil spill off Johor: Affected fish farms plan to seek compensation
Lianne Chia Channel NewsAsia 6 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE: One fish farm lost almost its entire Chinese New Year harvest, after a vessel collision off Johor on Tuesday (Jan 3) resulted in about 300 tonnes of oil spilling into the sea.

Now, Gills N’ Claws, which runs a fish farm north of Pulau Ubin, said it is already in talks with its lawyers and will consider taking legal action against the shipping companies in question.

“Our lawyers told us we can sue the ship owners for compensation,” said Gills N’ Claws’ CEO Steven Suresh. “But first we will ask them amicably how they plan to compensate us, and then see what they say.

“If they don’t want to compensate us, then we will have to take legal action.”

The company estimates its losses could run to as high as S$700,000. It saw the deaths of about 70 per cent of the fish meant to be sold in time for Chinese New Year, but the larger proportion of its losses come from having to change all the infrastructure that was ruined by the oil.

“Just redoing the infrastructure alone is going to cost us a bomb,” said Mr Suresh. “It’s easier for me to tear the whole thing down and build a new system than to clean up the oil.”


But how likely is it that they will be successful in recouping their losses? Lawyers Channel NewsAsia spoke to said that under Singapore law, these fish farms are eligible for compensation from the ship owners responsible for the spill.

“If the collision was caused by the fault or negligence of any of the ships involved, the fish farms would likely have a claim against the party at fault,” said K Murali Pany, managing partner of Joseph Tan Jude Benny LLP. “If the party does not offer payment, the fish farms will have to bring a claim in court, and a ship arrest to obtain security for their claims may also be possible.”

The Government can also take steps to penalise shipping companies for causing oil spills that affect Singapore, according to S Suressh, partner at Harry Elias Partnership and head of the Aviation and Shipping Practice Group. He said the master, agent and owner of the ship can be fined up to a maximum of S$1 million under the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea Act.

In a 1993 case involving accidental pollution, the fine imposed was about S$10,000. But penalties are much more severe in cases of deliberate pollution. “In 1996, a tanker dumped oil into the sea. The master was sentenced to three months' imprisonment and fined S$400,000. The ship’s owner and its agent were also fined S$400,000 each.”

He added that the fish farms looking to make a claim will have to take the matter up with the representatives of the owner of the vessel. There is also no fixed time frame for it to be resolved, as each case is different. “If matters cannot be resolved, then claimants can sue the owners, but this is rarely necessary as most claims of this nature are settled,” he said. “The ship probably has insurance coverage for this.”


In the meantime, affected fish farms are still assessing their damage and taking a wait-and-see approach. President of the Fish Farmers’ Association Timothy Ng said they are still exploring their options and are currently having preliminary discussions. “But it is likely that we will need to make some claims,” he said.

It is also not easy to gauge the actual impact of the oil spill on his association’s members, he added. “There are a few farmers directly impacted, but for others … I heard from a farmer closer to the Changi side that they could see (the) oil coming.”

“So we will only know in a few weeks, when everything is settled, what the impact is on their farms.”

As of Friday (Jan 6), the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) has issued orders for 12 farms to suspend fish sales until food safety evaluations are complete.

Fish available in the market is safe for consumption, AVA added.

AVA has also been visiting coastal fish farms to ascertain and mitigate the situation, as well as assist in the clean-up. Oil-absorbent pads and canvas have been issued to 25 farmers near the site of the oil spill to help protect their fish stock.

It added that while some farms said that about 250kg of fish have died, most of the farms in the same area did not report any, and that there is “minimal impact to supply”.

Additional reporting by Vanessa Lim.

- CNA/dt

Authorities embark on clean-up along Singapore coastlines after oil spill
ALFRED CHUA Today Online 6 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE — A day after two ships collided in Johor waters, oil patches were found along coastlines in the north-eastern part of Singapore, while an 800m stretch of Changi Beach was closed on Thursday (Jan 5) to clean up the oil spill.

A second fish farm in the affected area also reported fish deaths from the spill, although the authorities said most farms were spared and impact on supply was “minimal”. Nonetheless, some farms have been told to suspend sales, until food safety tests are completed.

Apart from Changi Beach, oil patches were also found along the shorelines of Noordin beach at Pulau Ubin, and the beaches at Punggol and Pasir Ris, said the National Environmental Agency (NEA). They were also found off the Cafhi jetty, also at Changi Beach and along the shorelines of Changi Point Ferry Terminal, as well as Changi Sailing Club, said the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) on Thursday evening.

About 300 tonnes of oil gushed into the waters off Singapore on Tuesday night after two ships collided off Pasir Gudang Port in Johor.

When TODAY visited Changi Beach on Thursday afternoon, cleaners were seen clearing up oil-coated sand near Changi jetty, and placing oil-absorbent pads into the water. They had been working there since morning.

There was a distinct stench of oil in the air and a handful of beachgoers could be seen in the area.

Not far from the jetty, bag after bag of sand coated with oil was heaped along the seashore.

The NEA has advised the public to exercise caution when visiting the affected beaches and to avoid the stretches where cleaning work is being carried out.

Clean-up work aside, the authorities on Thursday also stepped up their efforts to contain the oil spill. The MPA increased the number of vessels deployed to clear up the oil patches to 17, from nine the previous day. Its spokesperson said 222 personnel were involved in the clean-up efforts.

The National Parks Board (NParks), which deployed oil-absorbent booms along Pulau Ubin’s north-eastern coast, Pasir Ris Park and Coney Island Park on Wednesday to protect mudflats and mangrove areas, said “the booms have kept the oil out of the biodiversity sensitive sites”.

“We will continue to monitor the impact of the oil spill on marine life and share more details when this is ready,” it added.

Meanwhile, fish farmers were on Thursday counting the cost of the damage arising from the oil spill, while the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said more farms in the East Johor Strait have found oil on their nets and premises, due to tide movement.

Two farms have reported fish deaths, amounting to 100 to 250kg across both farms. The AVA said it has issued notices to suspend sales to three farms, and more will be issued if more farms become affected.

When TODAY visited Mr Timothy Ng from 2 Jays Pte Ltd at his farm off the north-western coast of Pulau Ubin, cleaning personnel could be seen working to remove swathes of black oil.

This was “the largest such incident” to hit his 12-year-old farm, which is among those hit with a suspension. A visibly-disappointed Mr Ng said he could not do much with his fish stock now, except to put aerators into the fish cages to pump in fresh air.

“We cannot feed any fish now, since the food will be contaminated, so for now, we will just have to wait and see,” said Mr Ng, adding that “no more than 10kg” of fish had already died due to the oil spill.

His farm has around 10 tonnes of fish and seafood, and four employees.

Mr Tan Choon Teck, from FC57E Fish Farm, said his entire 3ha farm was covered with oil and cleaning-up works were in progress.

He said in Mandarin: “I’m worried if my fish would die from a lack of fresh air (due to the thick layer of oil). I’m worried also because we cannot feed them,” he said, adding that the AVA had taken a few of his fish for tests.

12 farms ordered to stop fish sales in aftermath of oil spill
TOH EE MING Today Online 7 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE — Nine more farms have been told to stop selling fish as a result of the oil spill, although the authorities said on Friday (Jan 6) that no new patches of oil had been spotted and the cleanup progress was going well.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) said that the suspension would be in place “until food safety evaluations are complete”. This brings the total number of farms told to stop sales to 12, on top of the three ordered to do so on Thursday.

Some 300 tonnes of oil gushed into the waters off Singapore on Tuesday night, after two ships collided off Pasir Gudang Port in Johor.

The AVA has been visiting coastal fish farms in the East Johor Straits to ascertain and mitigate the situation, and to assist in the cleanup.

Oil-absorbent pads and canvas were given to 25 farmers near the oil spill site to help protect their fish stock, and the authority also collected fish samples for food-safety tests.

Its spokesperson said: “While some farms have reported some fish mortalities of about 250kg, most of the farms in the same area did not report any ... There is minimal impact to supply.”

Separately, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) stressed that “good progress” has been made in containing and cleaning up the oil spillage in Singapore’s waters following the collision of container vessels Wan Hai 301 and Gibraltar-registered container vessel APL Denver. No new patches of oil have been spotted along East Johor Straits, and port operations remain unaffected, MPA said.

Cleanup operations are still taking place at various places such as the Changi Point Ferry Terminal, fish farms at Nenas Channel and Noordin beach situated on the northern coastline of Pulau Ubin.

The MPA also deployed oil-spill response vessels, containment booms and spill recovery equipment such as harbour busters, skimmers and absorbent booms and pads.

“MPA and the other government agencies are monitoring the situation closely and will carry out necessary cleanup efforts,” it said.

An 800m stretch of Changi Beach has been closed until further notice due to the oil spill, the National Environment Agency said on Thursday.

The closure is to help facilitate the clean-up of the affected area, the NEA said, and advised the public to avoid the area.

Members of the public who spot any oil patches in Singapore’s waters or coastline may call the MPA’s 24-hour Marine Safety Control Centre at 6325 2488/9.

Fish farm might close due to oil spill
Fish farms in Pulau Ubin in costly ordeal after oil spill from vessels collision reaches them
Kimberly Lim The New Paper 7 Jan 17;

It has been an anxious three days for Mr Steven Suresh, who has been shuttling between his office in mainland Singapore and his fish farm located in north Pulau Ubin.

Gills N Claws, an aquaculture company, has a total of $500,000 worth of seafood at stake because of the oil spill in Johor, said the 46-year-old chief executive officer.

He is waiting for the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) to release the results of food safety tests conducted on the fish samples.

The Tuesday night collision between two container vessels saw 300 tonnes of oil spillage.

By the following night, patches of oil were seen along the beaches of Singapore's north-eastern coast.

Mr Steven said: "This whole experience has been horrifying and shocking. I really do not know what to do.

The future for the company remains uncertain for now, he added.

"We have no insurance for the farm because it was not made available to us. We were affected by the red tide during the previous two years and we were just recovering from that when the oil spill happened," he said.

Mr Steven expects the results to be out by tomorrow. But sales to restaurants, fishmongers and wholesalers have been brought to a standstill.

He said: "We have 40 tonnes of fish stocked up for the Chinese New Year, with each tonne costing up to $7,000. From my experience, my fish are definitely gone already. We cannot pull out the net or feed the fish.

"We also have four tonnes of lobsters, costing $55,000 per tonne. As far as I know, the lobsters are gone too - nobody will want to buy lobsters with oil coated on them."

Mr Steven added: "The clean-up for the farm will take at least four months to complete and our business will have to stop because of it."

He said the farm has to undergo structural changes on top of purchasing new nets and high-density floating polyethylene cubes.

There is a high chance the company will close down because of the time required to clean up, he said.

Mr Tan Choon Teck, owner of FC57E Fish Farm, also sent fish samples to AVA for testing.

The 54-year-old said in Mandarin: "AVA came to collect the fish sample on Wednesday but has not notified us on when the results will be released.

"I have not estimated the losses made but some of my small fishes have died."

He added: "I have been feeling very anxious because I am afraid that more fish will die. I have also been very busy with cleaning the oil."

Some fish farms have managed to escape the ordeal.

Among them is The Fish Farmer, located in the south of Pulau Ubin.

Mr Malcolm Ong, 53, the chief executive officer, said: "We were unaffected by the oil spill but it came close to the farm and skirted right past us.


"I feel very lucky and fortunate, but also a bit pained for our fellow farmers because we are a small community. It is a big blow for them and we hope that they can recover from this."

AVA has been visiting coastal fish farms in the East Johor Strait to assess the situation and assist in the clean-up, such as issuing oil absorbent pads and canvas to 25 farmers closest to the oil spill.

Some farms have reported loss of 250kg of fish.

AVA said: "To ensure food safety, AVA has collected fish samples for food safety tests and will continue to do so. We have also issued suspension of sales to 12 farms as (of yesterday).

"The suspension will be in place until food safety evaluations are complete. Fish available in the market is safe for consumption."

Dr Leong Hon Keong, group director of AVA's technology and industry development group, said: "As compared to the day before, we have observed more farms with tainted nets and structures in the East Johor Strait due to the tidal movement.

"AVA will continue to monitor the situation and assist the fish farmers, including assisting in cleanup efforts."

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said: "Clean-up operations are still on going at Changi Point Ferry Terminal, fish farms at Nenas Channel, and at Noordin beach, northern coastline of Pulau Ubin. Oil spill response vessels as well as containment booms and spill recovery equipment, such as harbour busters, skimmers and absorbent booms and pads, have also been deployed."

Oil-slicked sand to be incinerated
Audrey Tan, The Straits Times AsiaOne 7 Jan 17;

A stretch of Changi Beach remains closed to beachgoers in the aftermath of an oil spill that has stained Singapore's shores.

Work is under way on about 800m of the beach to detoxify the oil-streaked sands there.

The sand, contaminated with oil spilt after two vessels collided in Johor waters on Tuesday, will be incinerated to destroy the oil and other hazardous material in it.

This is a common way of clearing oil spills on land.

About two tonnes of the Changi sand were sent for incineration at NSL OilChem Waste Management's plant in Boon Lay yesterday.

An NSL spokesman told The Straits Times: "The resulting ash and sand will be further tested to meet (National Environment Agency) compliance requirements before disposing it at the landfill on Pulau Semakau."

The company has been treating, recycling and disposing of oily waste in Singapore since 1997, and was engaged by a National Environment Agency (NEA) sub-contractor to deal with the oil-contaminated soil at Changi Beach, one of the areas affected.

Other beaches at Punggol and Pasir Ris on the mainland were also affected. Pulau Ubin and Coney Island - two of Singapore's offshore islands - were hit by the spill as well.

Of these beaches, Changi seemed to be worst hit. Cleanup operations at Coney Island, Pasir Ris and Punggol beaches have been completed.

Cleaning was still under way at Pulau Ubin's Noordin Beach yesterday, but this area has been closed to the public since 2013 for shore restoration works.

When The Straits Times visited the beach next to the Changi Village Hawker Centre yesterday, the red-and-white tape to block off access was still up, with signs placed every 10m or so warning people to stay out of the water.

NEA said on Thursday that the affected stretch will be temporarily closed to beachgoers "until further notice" to facilitate the cleanup.

One beachgoer, Mr Lawrence Fong, 57, said the smell of fuel was distracting, although the closure did not affect him as he does not swim there.

"But I suppose it would be a major disruption for people who spend time here with their families," said Mr Fong, a project manager.

"It gets very crowded here on the weekends with people relaxing and enjoying the scenery, fishing."

Mr Adrian Koh, who operates the Bistro@Changi cafe along the affected stretch, estimates that the spill caused a 30 per cent drop in customers.

"We have some people who came in, but left as the smell of (fuel) was very strong," he said.

Fish farms along the affected East Johor Strait are also adopting a wait-and-see approach to assess damage.

Mr Timothy Ng, operations manager of 2 Jays, one of the affected farms, said oil spills do not directly impact the fish.

Read also: Owners of ships to foot $1.6 million oil cleanup bill

But he estimated that he has lost 20kg of stock - or about 30 fish - so far.

His farm is one of 12 that the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) has asked to stop sales while tests are ongoing.

The suspension will be in place until food safety evaluations are complete, said AVA, and fish on the market is safe for consumption.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, which is coordinating cleanup efforts, said it could not yet estimate the cleanup costs.

However, good progress has been made in containing and cleaning up the spillage and no new patches of oil have been spotted along the East Johor Strait, it said.

Major clean-up after oil spill spreads to Singapore beaches
Part of Changi Beach closed after Singapore is hit by worst oil spill since 2010
Kimberly Lim The New Paper 6 Jan 17;

The oil spill in the Johor Strait on Tuesday night has sparked a massive clean-up after the tar-like slick reached the north-eastern coast of Singapore.

A collision between two container vessels near Pasir Gudang Port in Johor had damaged one of their bunker tanks and caused the spillage of 300 tonnes of oil.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore said in a statement yesterday that 17 vessels and 222 personnel had been deployed for the clean-up.

Patches of oil could be seen off Cafhi Jetty and the shorelines of Pasir Ris Beach, Punggol Beach and Changi Beach, which seemed to be the worst hit.

The offshore islands of Pulau Ubin and Coney Island were also affected.

Cleaning along the western coastlines of Pulau Ubin and Nenas Channel is in progress.

Yesterday morning, National Environment Agency (NEA) contractors were seen bringing up oil absorbents stained with oil onto a vessel, while workers packed oil-stained sand into trash bags, The Straits Times reported online.

Equipment to skim oil from the water surface and prevent it from spreading was also deployed at the affected areas.

Workers were seen putting up sign boards advising people to stay away from the contaminated waters and that the beach was closed.

NEA said that an affected 800m stretch of Changi Beach had been closed to beachgoers until further notice.

A 100m stretch at Noordin Beach at Pulau Ubin is also being cleaned. Cleaning at Punggol Beach and Pasir Ris Beach was completed yesterday afternoon.

"Members of the public are advised to exercise caution when visiting these beaches and to avoid the affected stretches where cleaning operations are still ongoing," said NEA.

I had never seen a spill this bad. There was a strong chemical stench that made me feel dizzy.
Mr Colin Koh
Among those affected was Mr Colin Koh, 53, director at Asian Detours, an outdoor adventure company that is usually bustling with kayakers on weekends.

He told The New Paper: "The weekend is usually our peak period and we can have up to six groups, totalling 20 to 40 people. But we have postponed all the tours for the remainder of this week."

After Mr Koh checked the spill yesterday to find out the extent of the damage, he described it as one of the worst spills he had seen in his 31 years.

"I had never seen a spill this bad. There was a strong chemical stench that made me feel dizzy," he said.

Worried about how long the clean-up would take, Mr Koh said that even a 10 per cent drop in business would be a huge blow because Asian Detours is not a big company.

"I usually lead kayaking expeditions three times a week. It is my passion, lifeblood and my rice bowl," he said.

"It is the same for my employees and all the expedition leaders out there."

This is the first major oil spill to affect Singapore since 2010, when 2,500 tonnes of crude oil leaked into the Singapore Strait south of the mainland, after a ship collision.

乌敏岛一半红树林受油渍污染 可能枯萎
06/01/2017 20:2706/01/2017 23:11 李赠谊报道

乌敏岛一半红树林受油渍污染 可能枯萎
柔佛海峡货船相撞引发漏油事件,马来西亚称300多个渔民受影响,要求涉案公司赔偿。据了解, 清理费用高达500万令吉。








新加坡国立大学生物科学系资深讲师西瓦索迪说:“ 有点像把整个生态体系回复到最早期的情况,导致它没有机会成熟。长期影响就是,我们没有办法看到红树林蓬勃发展,因为体系一直重设。”


- CH8/GW

【柔佛海峡货船相撞漏油事件】乌敏岛红树林出现油污 半数树木可能枯萎
06/01/2017 11:2207/01/2017 01:08 李赠谊报道



参与红树林保育计划的渔农Phillip Lim表示,自愿保育团队昨天开始检查乌敏岛红树林受影响的程度,目前只完成一半的检查工作。虽然无法自行清理黑油,但完成检查工作后,自愿保育团队会与国家公园局合作,研究未来该如何应对类似事件,避免红树林受污染。

UPDATE 4: Collision of Container Vessels WAN HAI 301 and APL DENVER
MPA media release 6 Jun 17;

UPDATE 4: Collision of Container Vessels WAN HAI 301 and APL DENVER

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) continues to coordinate the clean-up efforts of the oil spillage in Singapore’s waters following the collision of container vessels WAN HAI 301 and APL DENVER

Good progress has been made in containing and cleaning up the oil spillage. No new patches of oil have been spotted along East Johor Straits.

Clean-up operations are still on going at Changi Point Ferry Terminal, fish farms at Nenas Channel, and at Noordin beach, northern coastline of Pulau Ubin. Oil spill response vessels as well as containment booms and spill recovery equipment such as harbour busters, skimmers and absorbent booms and pads have also been deployed.

MPA and the other government agencies are monitoring the situation closely and will carry out necessary clean-up efforts.
Port operations remain unaffected.

Members of the public who spot any oil patches in our waters or coastline can contact MPA’s 24-hour Marine Safety Control Centre at 6325-2488/9.

For media queries, please email or call 83662293.

Read more!

Singapore president to visit amid sand controversy

Yesenia Amaro Phnom Penh Post 6 Jan 17;

Officials were tight-lipped yesterday about whether huge discrepancies in sand exports to Singapore would be discussed during a visit by the city-state’s president to the Kingdom later this week, though a Ministry of Mines official said a new export process was in the works.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam is scheduled to visit Cambodia from January 8 through 11, according to a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As part of the visit, Keng Yam is scheduled to hold bilateral talks with Prime Minister Hun Sen and sign two agreements.

The visit comes on the heels of revelations that Singapore recorded 72.7 million tonnes of sand imported from Cambodia from 2007 to 2015 – worth $752 million – while the Kingdom only recorded 2.8 million tonnes – worth $5.5 million in exports for the same period.

Dith Tina, spokesman for the Ministry of Mines, declined to comment on whether the ministry had plans to discuss the controversy with the Singaporean president.

However, Tina said a suspension of coastal sand exports was still in effect and that the ministry was developing a new export mechanism. “We just need to improve our export process.”

Neither Singaporean officials nor officials at the Cambodian Foreign Ministry responded to requests for comment.

Alex Gonzalez-Davidson, a founder of NGO Mother Nature, said the group had engaged a law firm to investigate whether any laws were broken in the city-state by either sand importers or government regulators.

Read more!

Fewer golf greens, but more greenery from parks and trails

Janice Heng, The Straits Times AsiaOne 6 Jan 17;

Raffles Country Club, a 36-hole golfing venue in the west of Singapore, will make way for a massive depot and stable for the upcoming Cross Island MRT line and the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail (HSR) project.

The Straits Times

A few golf courses are lost to development, but that does not mean Singapore's green coverage is shrinking. More green spaces are on the way, with the amount of land dedicated to parks and nature reserves slated to increase from 5,700ha in 2010 to 7,250ha in 2030.

This is according to the Ministry of National Development's Land Use Plan, released in 2013.

Golf courses are classified separately under community, institution and recreation facilities.

The building of new golf courses has threatened nature areas in the past, with activists successfully protesting against a proposed golf course at Lower Peirce Reservoir in 1992.

Now, the projected increase in Singapore's greenery will come mainly from more parks in public housing estates, the development of former railway land into the 24km Rail Corridor and more green trails. For instance, the 150km Round Island Route is a continuous walking and cycling trail that will link existing park connectors.

And as public housing estates proliferate, so will parks. The aim is for 85 per cent of residents to live within 400m of a park by 2030.

But nature experts note that from a conservation standpoint, it is not just the quantity of greenery that matters, but the quality.

Preserving existing greenery, especially forests, is key, said Dr Ho Hua Chew, vice-chairman of the Nature Society (Singapore)'s conservation committee. "There are a lot of unprotected wild green areas, not gardens and parks, which deserve protection," he said.

Citing patches of secondary forests such as one near Lentor, he noted that these provide crucial habitats for native wildlife.

Surprise land acquisitions not likely to go on, say experts
Janice Heng AsiaOne 6 Jan 17;

Raffles Country Club will make way for a massive depot and stable for the upcoming Cross Island MRT line and the high-speed rail project linking Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

Golfers might feel hard done by following the acquisitions of Raffles Country Club and Jurong Country Club, but such surprises are not likely to continue, said experts.

The two golf clubs are making way for the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail (HSR).

Long-term planning might not have included the need to set aside land for this relatively recent development, hence the "last resort" of acquisition, said private sector urban planner Sarah Lin.

"The (HSR) plans were only finalised in recent years," she noted.

The bilateral agreement for the HSR was inked last month following a memorandum of understanding in July, with the express service between both cities expected to be running by end-2026.

Read also: Singapore-KL High Speed Rail: What you need to know

In contrast, most demands on the country's land resources are known and planned for in advance, so land acquisition should not usually be required, said Ms Lin.

So, for instance, Keppel Club's golf course, which will see its lease expire in 2021, occupies land that has been zoned for residential use in the Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA) 2001 Concept Plan.

Land-scarce Singapore has long had to grapple with competing needs. And going ahead, as it looks to build long-term infrastructure for a growing population, eyes are on what land can be tapped.

Experts identify various sources: For instance, 800ha of land freed up by the relocation of Paya Lebar airbase and underused pockets of industrial land across Singapore.

More golf courses are also getting the chop.

In 2013, the Government indicated that it was looking to redevelop golf course land for other uses such as housing. Then, there were 18 courses occupying about 1,500ha. In 2014, the Ministry of Law announced that 219ha of land will be made available from 2030, when the leases on golf courses expire.

On Wednesday, Singapore Land Authority chief executive officer Tan Boon Khai stressed that golf courses were not being targeted for land acquisitions.

But development plans are taken into consideration when golf clubs' leases are reviewed, he added.

R'ST Research director Ong Kah Seng said in cases where push does come to shove, golf courses are probably low in priority.

Housing, infrastructure, economic and industrial uses will all take priority over lifestyle uses such as golfing, he added.

National University of Singapore Associate Professor Ho Kong Chong noted that golf courses are a low-intensity and inefficient use of scarce land.

Ms Lin said that besides golf courses, there are other nodes of land for further development, such as reclamation and redevelopment - not least from the relocation of Paya Lebar airbase.

Former chief planner Liu Thai Ker said: "When we developed the 1991 URA concept plan, we deliberately kept a bit of land undeveloped while outlining further reclamation efforts from the sea."

Existing land use can also be intensified, he added, citing industrial land in areas such as Jurong and Eunos. "We used to build cheap factories - single-storey shophouses with workshops. We can rebuild them and free up the space for other development. We can also look at intensifying building upwards."

Commentary: Is golf dying in Singapore?
While the closure of golf courses to make way for the high-speed rail project presents short-term problems, the sport in Singapore may have other major issues to deal with as it wrestles with an uncertain future.
Jaime Ho Channel NewsAsia 5 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE: The first proper golf course that I'd ever swung a golf club on was Raffles Country Club (RCC). A friend had snuck me on. We were teenagers - he a top junior, and me a hanger-on just starting to fall in love with the game. We zoomed round the course in our buggy, laughed at my duffs and tops, finished as dusk fell, and by the time we were done, I was hooked.

It must have been around 1988 or so, when the club had just opened. With the news now emerging that the Government has acquired the land on which the club sits, it’s almost poetic that I too found my love affair with golf coming to an end.

On Wednesday (Jan 4), RCC’s July 2018 date with destiny was announced, just days after golfers played their last rounds on Jurong Country Club. Both will make way for the Singapore-KL High-Speed Rail project, and this comes on top of news in recent years that other leases will lapse. In time, Keppel Club, Marina Bay Golf Club and Orchid Country Club will go. The Singapore Island Country Club (SICC), Tanah Merah Country Club and National Service Resort and Country Club will see parts of their courses reduced in size as well.

This has only sharpened the usual hand-wringing among golfers on the state of the game in Singapore.

Of course, on the other side of the fence are the non-golfers, who argue that this will be for the best. There will be better and more productive uses of land than to have manicured Bermuda grass, sand, water and men walking around in neon.

The game is dying, they all proclaim. And they may be right.

If so, it’s probably not just because of the land that’s being taken away. The game may be suffering from a deeper-lying affliction.


In August 1940, Winston Churchill paid tribute to the Royal Air Force, fighting over the skies of Britain against the might of the German Luftwaffe.

“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few,” he said.

Well, as far as sports in Singapore goes, the slogan for golf might be: Never has so much been given to so few.

And it’s not just the land that goes with golf courses. It’s the basic accessibility to a sport that, at its core, must be one of the most beautiful games around. You’re at one with nature. You compete with no one but yourself and your inner demons. You’re bound by the highest standards of honour and self-regulation. Spend five hours with a man over golf, and you’ll see his inner self.

It’s an honourable game. But it was also meant to be a democratic game. And that’s where it lost its soul in Singapore.

Under the guise of land scarcity, expensive and exclusive country clubs have become the reserved domain for golfers. Playing golf, and wanting to do it regularly, means being a member of a club, if not in Singapore, then in Johor or Batam. The point, however, is that this never needed to be the operating premise. Golf can be much more public. Land scarcity does not necessarily mean exclusivity. That exclusivity was manufactured.

Under the guise of maintaining standards and care for golf courses, golf also became a sport that demanded that someone be judged minimally competent (and that’s the damned PC or proficiency certificate) before they can even set foot on a golf course. And then having to religiously submit your scores before you get to be assessed (again!) for the holy grail of a handicap. Imagine being told you had to get your tennis skills judged before being allowed on a court. Like private clubs, it doesn’t necessarily have to be this way.

The walls were built early, and these walls that kept people out will ultimately spell the demise of the game here.


Gazing beyond our own navels, it’s interesting to see what’s happening to golf in the US and Europe. On the one hand, signs are that participation rates in America are falling, even as golf remains as accessible as ever. It’s been called a demographic challenge, as golfers get older and fewer young ones come on board. The years of Tiger Woods are long gone. Most of the kids who appeared in the famous “I am Tiger Woods” Nike commercials are probably now in their 20s, and I’ll bet they aren’t playing any golf, and probably a little bit embarrassed at what they said. They’re also likely to be millennials. What? Golf?

Over in Europe, the story is different. There, participation rates in the UK are apparently growing. And where do the numbers come from? The young ones. According to the European Tour, what has helped has been the creation of all sorts of different formats apart from the five-hour 18-hole rounds. Pitch and putts, 9-hole courses and shorter par-3 courses. In essence, it’s been about increasing access, both in continuing to lower barriers to entry, and in adapting the game to bring in a younger generation.

Surely, there’s something to learn from that. Adapt, and the game survives. Don’t, and it could die.


It’s been said that to estimate how good a person will ever be at golf, you take the age at which he first started (e.g. 24); then you divide it by 2 (therefore 12). And that’s the lowest handicap that they’ll ever get to. From empirical evidence of two - me and my father - I’d say that’s not inaccurate. I started early; he started late, encouraged by his kids.

It’s therefore meant to be a game that’s started as young as possible. And not one started as a mid-life aspiration.

I’m now in almost complete golf retirement. I’ve not swung a club in years, and I’ve fallen out of love with the game. I fell out of love when it became clear to me that it had become just that - another Singaporean aspiration.

For it to ever make any sense in Singapore, it must shake off its tag as an aspirational sport. It can be a mass sport, one that is truly open to the public, and re-moulded from its cloistered, old-boy, patriarchal self. It can be done. We still have enough courses.

The question is whether those who hold on will ever let go. Will we see the day when most, if not all, of our golf courses are fully public? Will we see the day when those who run the closed clubs open (or be asked to open) their doors even more, to bring in a new, more inclusive golf that encourages kids to step onto the greens?

The Government has already sent its signals. The gesture sent in making SICC set aside one of its 18 holes for the labour movement is small, but also strong.

As another country club bites the dust, there is no better time for some introspection in the golfing fraternity on the future of the sport. One future is an inclusive revival.

Another future is a quiet death, as course numbers shrink along with active golfer numbers. If that happens, it will unfortunately be entirely self-inflicted.

Jaime Ho is the Chief Editor of Digital News at Channel NewsAsia.

- CNA/db

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Malaysia: Tiger seen along East Coast Highway

The Star 6 Jan 17;

KUALA TERENGGANU: The Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) confirmed that it had received a report on the presence of a tiger along the East Coast Highway Phase 2 (LPT2) near Bukit Besi.

However, whether the tiger was actually there as was reported on social media could not be confirmed.

As a first step, the department would set up a trap for the animal and did not rule out the possibility of its presence in the area after its natural habitat was flooded due to heavy rains and overflowing rivers.

"Thus far we have received a report about 7.30pm on Wednesday in connection with the discovery of a tiger in the area near the highway ... so we took the first step, by setting up a trap this morning," Perhilitan director Mohd Hasdi Husin said.

"It is a precautionary measure to prevent any untoward incident. However, we do not know to what extent the authenticity of the animal sighting," he said.

A tiger was reported to have appeared along the LPT2 and images recorded by certain individuals became viral. - Bernama

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Malaysia: Ban on plastic bags going well in Selangor


PETALING JAYA: Most folks in Selangor are responding well to the ban on plastic bags despite some feeling that they still need more time to get used to it.

Some however felt more awareness must be created as to why it is necessary to ban plastic bags.

Copywriter Trinity Alexandra, said she fully supports the ban as it “forces” her to do her part for mother nature but admitted it has been a challenge.

“Even though I have recycle bags or containers in my car, I sometimes forget to take it out so I am forced to pay the 20 sen charge for the plastic bags,

“So the challenge is mainly to remind myself to lug the bags and containers around,” said Trinity.

Writer P. Deepika, 28, said more should be done on creating awareness about the reason for the ban.

“People need to know why they are doing something, otherwise you are not addressing the issue. We won’t achieve much at the end of the day.

“Having said that, I do think the ban is a necessary move,” she said.

Praveen Reginald, 33, said she has practised packing food in her own containers and bringing along cloth bags even before the ban was enforced.

She, however, felt merchants who are providing plastic bags with a price should be made to give out paper bags instead.

“I think it’s a good effort to ban plastic as it is very timely but I think the Government should pressure merchants to provide paper bags,” she said.

Selangor state exco member Elizabeth Wong said ample time had been given to retailers, traders and even consu­mers to get used to the No Plastic Bag Day campaign.

“Our enforcement units from the local councils will begin their rounds very soon,” she said.

“The maximum compound of RM1,000 will be imposed as it is the standard amount for any breach of licensing by-laws,” said Wong.

The campaign, she added, was “encouraging and positive so far”.

Malaysia Retail Chain Association president Datuk Garry Chua said its members were getting used to the ban, some of whom were now using environmentally-friendly bags.

However, he hoped that there would be a grace period for retailers and consumers to get adjusted to the ruling.

Fomca deputy president Mohd Yusof Abdul Rahman said the ban should be extended to all states via its local authorities.

“This is an important environmental issue and I don’t see why it should not be implemented nationwide,” said Mohd Yusof.

Ecotourism and Conservation Society Malaysia co-founder Andrew Sebastian said he hoped that any savings that the retailers and traders make from not giv­­­­­­­ing out plastic bags could be channelled back to the environment.

Malaysian Nature Society president Henry Goh said it was in full support of using less plastic, adding that this should eventually lead to a total ban.

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Malaysia: Terengganu flood victims rise to 1,473

The Star 7 Jan 17;

KUALA TERENGGANU: The number of residents affected by the flood in Terengganu has risen to 1,473 comprising 364 families as of 8am Saturday morning, compared to 1,238 (316 families) last night.

They are staying at eight evacuation centres.

The Social Welfare Department through its Infobanjir app said a new centre was opened at Sekolah Kebangsaan Gong Badak in Kuala Terengganu which now has 1,199 flood victims (286 families), compared to 955 (235 families) Friday.

In Dungun, 208 victims (60 families) are staying at two centres, Dewan Sivik Paka and SK Durian Mentangau.

The number remains for flood victims in two districts, Marang (39 people from 13 families staying at SK Pasir Putih),and Setiu (27 from five families, at Surau Kampung Nyatoh).

Meanwhile, Terengganu state education director, Shafruddin Ali Hussin said a 'gotong royong' to clean up the surroundings of schools affected by the flood would continue today.

He said all schools in the state would open as usual tomorrow.

"The flood since Saturday disrupted class sessions at 65 schools in Terengganu due to the submerged roads. Some low-lying schools were also inundated.

"The department is very grateful for the cooperation of many parties in joining the local community to make sure that the schools could operate normally as soon as possible," he said. - Bernama

Flood waters receding in most parts of Terengganu

HULU TERENGGANU: Flood waters in most parts of the state have receded and the locals are praying fervently that things stay that way.

Rain during the night momentarily saw residents in low-lying areas evacuated to flood relief centres.

However, the situation improved vastly that by 6pm yesterday only 1,108 people are still left in the shelters. At the height of the floods, there were over 10,000 people in these centres.

All relief centres in the once worst hit areas, Besut and Hulu Terengganu, are officially closed. All roads have also been reopened to vehicles.

The two newly opened relief centres are in Kuala Nerus and Kuala Terengganu.

“The flood waters are receding but I’m still very anxious and worried if it rains again. The waters may rise again at any time.

“I really hope the weather changes for the better very soon,” said 41-year-old Faridah Latiff who runs a food stall in Kampung Matang here.

Fifteen-year-old SMK Matang student Ahmad Syafiq Aiman Muhammad said he was frightened by the fast flowing waters which flooded his house.

“There’s an old Malay belief that says these big floods come seven times in a year and we’ve already been through four. I really hope that doesn’t come true because it is very scary,” he said.

During his visit to the SK Tengkawang flood relief centre, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said he was happy with the cooperation and coordination shown by the state government and hoped the weather would continue to improve.

He also said that homes destroyed in the recent floods would be repaired under the Jiwa Murni programme, a collaboration between the army and the private sector.

He also announced a RM50,000 donation to families at the relief centre.

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Indonesia: Floods, landslide hit Sinuruik, West Pasaman

Antara 6 Jan 17;

Simpang Empat, W Sumatra (ANTARA News) - Floods and a landslide have struck the villages of Sunuruik and Talu in Talamau Sub-district, West Pasaman District, West Sumatra Province, over the last two days.

More than 100 homes were inundated, and land transportation between West Pasaman and Pasaman Districts was cut off, Head of the West Pasaman Disaster Mitigation Office Try Wahluyo stated here, Friday.

Torrential rains over the last two days have caused the Batang Sinuruik River to overflow, he added.

A landslide struck Jorong Paraman in the same district, cutting off a main road in the village.

Meanwhile, thousands of residential houses in South Pesisir District, West Sumatra Province, on Thursday, were inundated due to incessant rains since Wednesday night.

The floodwaters had inundated thousands of houses in the sub-districts of Bayang, North Bayang, IV Jurai, and Batang Kapas in the district of South Pesisir, Head of the Regional Disaster Mitigation Agency of South Pesisir Prinurdin stated here on Thursday.

In addition to West Sumatra, other provinces that were affected by flooding included West Nusa Tenggara and Aceh.

Based on data provided by West Nusa Tenggaras Regional Disaster Management Agency, thousands of houses in five districts in Bima City were inundated, with water levels ranging between one and three meters. A total of 105,758 inhabitants in the city were affected by the flash floods.

The value of losses incurred due to the floods was estimated to reach hundreds of billions of rupiah owing to damage to roads, bridges, telecommunication and electricity networks, public facilities, as well as local business activities.

Indonesia will likely experience more such intense weather events in January 2017 due to a strong La Ni�a phenomenon, known for causing torrential downpours and widespread flooding across the state, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) has forecast.

The BNPB has cautioned the people to remain vigilant against hydro-meteorological disasters during the January-April and November-December 2017 period.

"Drought that could induce forest and plantation fires might occur from June to October. Moreover, there might be earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions," Sutopo stated while releasing the agencys forecast of natural disasters in 2017.(*)

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Indonesia: Emergency Period in Flood-Hit Bima Extended by a Week

Alin Almanar Jakarta Globe 5 Jan 17;

Jakarta. The government has decided to extend the emergency period in the flood-hit Bima district of West Nusa Tenggara by a week on Thursday (05/01) as several public services have yet to be restored.

The emergency period was initially set to end on Thursday, two weeks after floodwaters inundated 30 villages in five subdistricts, which affected more than 100,000 residents.

There were nearly 1,000 residents remaining in nine evacuation shelters by Thursday, as health, education and other public facilities were still inaccessible, National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

"The extension of the emergency period is necessary for field teams to complete their work targets involving the environment, as well as education and health facilities," Sutopo said in a statement.

Last month's flooding damaged more than 60 health centers and 27 education facilities, while 230 homes were swept away, 716 heavily damaged, 739 moderately damaged and more than 17,700 submerged.

Flood emergency response period extended for 14 days in Bima
Antara 6 Jan 17;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The flood emergency response period in Bima, West Nusa Tenggara, has been extended from January 6 to 19, Data Information Center and Public Relations of the National Disaster Mitigation Agencys Chief Sutopo Purwo Nugroho stated.

"Two weeks after the flash floods in Bima on December 21 and 23, the situation has not fully recovered," Nugroho remarked in a written statement received here on Thursday.

He said that following the flash floods, some problems were still being encountered in areas, such as education, garbage handling, health, and the refugee crisis, which must be resolved, and thus, it was decided to extend the emergency response period for 14 days.

In the meantime, Prijono, head of the Bank Indonesia (BI) Office in West Nusa Tenggara, stated in Mataram on Wednesday that BI had, so far, distributed 693 aid packages to the victims of flash floods in Bima.

He said the aid packages were from the Association of BIs Employees, BIs central office, and the banks representative offices.

"The total value of assistance reached Rp140 million. These funds were used to purchase aid packages for the victims, such as basic necessities, clothing, medicines, and essential items for infants," he revealed.

In addition to its contribution, BI was instructed to distribute assistance from the Regional Banking Consultative Agency of Bengkulu Province in the form of food, clothing, and educational tools worth Rp10 million, he remarked.

Based on data provided by West Nusa Tenggaras Regional Disaster Management Agency, thousands of houses in five districts in Bima City were inundated, with water levels ranging between one and three meters. A total of 105,758 inhabitants in the city were affected by the flash floods.

The value of losses incurred due to the floods was estimated to reach hundreds of billions of rupiah owing to damage to roads, bridges, telecommunication and electricity networks, public facilities, as well as local business activities.(*)

Bima emergency relief work extended to Jan. 12
Panca Nugraha The Jakarta Post 5 Jan 17;

Flash flooding in Bima, West Nusa Tenggara, has left huge social problems, forcing the city administration to extend its emergency relief period which should have ended on Jan. 5, by one week to Jan. 12.

The Bima administration recorded that as of Thursday, at least 900 residents were still taking refuge in temporary shelters in nine points across the city. Activities in several schools and community health centers (Puskesmas) have not yet returned to normal as they are still not yet free of garbage and flood debris.

“Based on the results of the Bima flood mitigation team’s meeting, the emergency relief deadline will be extended by seven days to Jan. 12. This decision has been taken to make cleaning easier and because some problems in the management of displaced people have not yet been fully resolved, among other things,” Bima administration spokesperson Syahrial Nuryadin said in a statement on Thursday.

Bima suffered severe damage following a two-day flash flood on Dec.21 and Dec.23.

“In the education sector, many schools need special attention. Education facilities in several locations sustained severe damage. Many students are still suffering from trauma and do not yet have proper school equipment,” said Syahrial.

The joint clean-up team has not yet managed to achieve its target of 100 percent of areas free from garbage and flood debris. The volume of flood garbage taken to temporary trash disposal sites (TPS) has exceeded their capacities, creating more problems for the city administration.

In the health sector, only a few areas have been sterilized due to a lack of personnel, equipment and disinfectant. Syahrial said many health facilities had been cleaned of flood debris, but healthcare services were not yet optimal as many medicines and medical equipment had sustained severe damage. (ebf)

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Thailand: 6 dead in southern Thai floods

Channel NewsAsia 6 Jan 17;

BANGKOK: Torrential rain and flooding across southern Thailand have killed at least six people, delayed flights and disrupted holidays during peak tourist season, officials said Friday (Jan 6).

Nine provinces in Thailand's south have been beset by monsoon rains for nearly a week, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

Six people have been killed and at least 120,000 households have been affected, it added.

The deluge has turned roads into rivers, upended stretches of rail track and delayed flights, including on the island of Samui - a popular tourist destination.

Photos circulated on social media showed cars nearly submerged in muddy waters, with some foreign tourists bobbing along in inflatable tubes to the amusement of onlookers.

Tuula Fitzpatrick, the owner of a guesthouse on Samui, said the flooding was the worst to hit the island in over a decade.

"In our guesthouse there were lots of people whose flights were cancelled," she told AFP.

"I've been living here for 12 years and I've never seen it so bad... It was scary. Some of my staff couldn't come to work."

Rail services have also been disrupted on the mainland, with trains unable to pass through the flooded region, authorities said Friday.

"The flood waters have hit the tracks and in some places the track was washed away," said Thanongsak Kongprasert, deputy governor of the State Railway of Thailand.

Military government chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha is scheduled to visit the southernmost province of Narathiwat on Friday to meet with flood victims and officials.

The region borders northern Malaysia, where thousands of people have been stranded in relief centres by heavy rains.


Thai PM visits flood-battered south: 6 dead, transport disrupted
Channel NewsAsia 6 Jan 17;

BANGKOK: Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha visited flooded parts of the south of the country on Friday where unseasonable downpours have killed six people, cut road and rail links and forced an airport to close.

Thailand's wet season usually ends in late November and heavy rain and flooding is rare in January, which is high season for beach resorts in the south.

Twenty-six flights to and from the main airport in the southern province of Nakhon Si Thammarat airport were cancelled on Friday because the runway was flooded, the Department of Airports said.

"The floods began on January 1 and are due to the unseasonable heavy rain," said an officer at the National Disaster Warning Center who declined to be identified as she is not authorised to speak to the media.

Six people had been killed in accidents caused by the flooding, she said.

Railway services on the main line linking Thailand to Malaysia have been suspended because the track is flooded.

Southern Thailand is a major rubber-producing region and the wet weather was having a significant impact on production, said Uthai Sonlucksub, president of the Natural Rubber Council of Thailand.

"Farmers began tapping in December because they had to wait for the rainy season to end but now they have to contend with the floods," Uthai told Reuters.

Flooding in Thailand usually occurs during the May-November rainy season.

Widespread floods in 2011 killed more than 900 people and caused major disruption to industry, cutting economic growth that year to just 0.1 percent.

(Reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre, Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Robert Birsel)

- Reuters

18 dead as torrential rain submerges Thai south
Channel NewsAsia 7 Jan 17;

BANGKOK: Heavy rains continued to hammer Thailand's flood-ravaged south on Saturday (Jan 7), bringing the death toll up to 18 and leaving thousands of villages partially submerged, authorities said.

The flooding, which was roof-high in some areas, has affected nearly one million people in ten southern provinces since it started a week ago, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

At least 18 people have died and one is missing, it added, with the rains turning roads into rivers, inundating farmland and damaging more than 1,500 schools in the region.

The downpour is expected to persist for at least two more days, according to Thailand's Meteorological Department, which warned of flash floods.

"The situation is very bad today and tomorrow. It's still raining heavily," said Junjuda Pornsri, a meterological official.

Military bases across the region have been mobilised to help evacuate flood victims, provide temporary shelters and distribute emergency aid, the government said Saturday.

In hard-hit Nakhon Si Thammarat province, two army helicopters were deployed to airlift food to families trapped inside their homes in Cha-uat district.

Bapha Suthiphanya, a 60-year-old who has spent the past three nights in a makeshift government shelter in the district, said she was forced to evacuate her home after the waters rose above her head.

"I was so shocked and scared. I've never seen water like this and I also can not swim," she told AFP.


The monsoon rains are unusually heavy for this time of year in Thailand, which normally sees a three-month stretch of relatively dry and cool weather starting in November.

It is high season for tourists who flock to the kingdom's island resorts, powering a crucial sector of the economy.

But the deluge has already disrupted beach holidays in several traveller hotspots, including the popular islands of Samui and Phangan.

Hundreds of tourists have had their flights delayed, while train and bus services on the mainland have also been suspended.

Yet some travellers are refusing to let the storm stop the fun, with photos doing the rounds on social media of tourists coasting through flooded streets on pool floats, sipping drinks.

"Some tourists are enjoying the flooding, they're taking pictures and going swimming," said Nongyao Jirundorn, a tourism official on Samui island.

Neighbouring Malaysia was also hit by severe flooding earlier this week, with thousands stranded in relief centres in two northeastern states.

But by Saturday, the number of evacuees in Kelantan and Terengganu had dropped to about 13,500, from almost 23,000 Wednesday, as weather conditions improved and authorities forecast less rainfall over the weekend.

Prime Minister Najib Razak visited Kelantan on Saturday and met with people seeking shelter at a relief centre.

- AFP/nc

Rain brings fresh misery to flood-hit Thai south
Channel NewsAsia 10 Jan 17;

BANGKOK: Swathes of southern Thailand remained submerged on Monday as fresh rain deepened misery in the flood-stricken zone, prompting a scramble to pump water from the worst-hit areas.

Twenty-one people have been killed and nearly one million people affected by floods after days of unexpected rain across the country's southern neck, disaster relief officials said.

Downpours and flash floods have also disrupted holidays on tourist islands including Samui and Phangan, disappointing tens of thousands of visitors hunting Thailand's peak season sun.

Despite the end of the monsoon season weeks ago, there were no immediate signs of respite for the flood-battered region.

The Thai Meteorological Department warned of continuing "heavy rains which may cause flash floods" across 10 southern provinces, while the army intensified relief efforts.

Thailand's junta has deployed boats with special pumping equipment to Nakhon Si Thammarat province, which has seen floods reach rooftops in some areas, causing deaths and extensive damage to property.

"We are sorry for the families who have lost their loved ones," Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters. "The government and army will help as much as we can."

Television images showed villagers wading through muddy water in remote flooded hamlets.

In areas where the water had receded, locals slopped out mud from their homes and surveyed broken roads, bridges and ruined farmland.

Thailand's south is heavily reliant on tourism and agriculture, including rubber, fruit and palm oil plantations, and the floods will likely have a significant economic impact.

Across the border in Malaysia, floods eased significantly, with only about 1,000 residents seeking shelter at relief centres in the states of Kelantan and Terengganu late Sunday.


- AFP/de

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