Worker injured after thunderstorm causes heavy damage to nursery, farm in Lim Chu Kang

Wendy Wong Channel NewsAsia 30 Mar 18;

SINGAPORE: One person was taken to hospital after a thunderstorm caused heavy damage to Koon Lee Nursery and Chew's Agriculture in Lim Chu Kang on Friday (Mar 30).

The Singapore Civil Defence Force said it responded to a call for ambulance assistance at 2 Murai Farmway at around 4pm.

A 38-year-old worker from the nursery was taken conscious to Ng Teng Fong Hospital.

Channel NewsAsia understands the police and officials from the Building and Construction Authority were at the scene.

Video and photos of the storm's aftermath showed widespread damage to the nursery with collapsed structures and debris strewn across the ground. A fire engine could also be seen at the scene.

Fallen trees were also seen in the area, with 31-year-old passerby Kenny Koh, an operations manager, telling Channel NewsAsia he saw a fallen tree blocking both lanes on Murai Farmway in Lim Chu Kang at around 4.40pm.

A video taken by him showed collapsed structures in the area.

Singapore was hit by heavy rain and strong winds on Friday, with fallen trees leading to bus diversions and traffic jams.

Fallen trees cause bus diversions, jams amid heavy rain, strong winds in western Singapore
Channel NewsAsia 30 Mar 18;

SINGAPORE: Fallen trees caused bus diversions in various parts of western Singapore and led to reports of traffic jams as heavy rain and strong winds hit the country on Friday (Mar 30).

Bus services were diverted due to fallen trees at locations including Bukit Batok Road and Choa Chu Kang Avenue 1, according to notifications from the SMRTConnect app.

Multiple fallen trees were also seen at a cemetery in Lim Chu Kang, with photos showing tombs covered by trees and a tree obstructing the road.

Forty-year-old Kelvin Koh, who works in logistics, told Channel NewsAsia that the area experienced "heavy rain and very strong winds" at about 3.50pm.

Operations manager Kenny Koh, 31, told Channel NewsAsia he saw a fallen tree blocking both lanes on Murai Farmway in Lim Chu Kang at around 4.40pm.

The heavy thunderstorm also caused damage to nearby Koon Lee Nursery and Chew's Agriculture. One worker from the nursery was taken to hospital.

Channel NewsAsia reader Zulkarnian reported traffic congestion at Bukit Batok Road towards Choa Chu Kang Way after a fallen tree obstructed two lanes of the three-lane road.

Video of the incident showed officers directing traffic and an ambulance at the scene.

The Land Transport Authority also warned motorists of obstacles in the area.

In a tweet at about 4.15pm, the authority warned of an obstacle on Old Choa Chu Kang Road towards Jalan Berseri after Choa Chu Kang Road, and added that Old Choa Chu Kang Road was closed after Choa Chu Kang Road.

In another tweet at about 4.30pm, the authority also warned of an obstacle on Bukit Batok Road towards Choa Chu Kang Road, after Pavilion Circle, and told motorists to avoid the right lane.

​​​​​​​According to the National Environment Agency's heavy rain alert, moderate to heavy thundery showers were expected over many areas of Singapore between 3.50pm and 5.10pm on Friday.

It also warned that flash floods may occur in the event of heavy rain.

Repairing thunderstorm damage could take months, says Lim Chu Kang nursery
Cheryl Goh Channel NewsAsia 31 Mar 18;

SINGAPORE: Destruction caused by the recent thunderstorm could take months to repair, said Koon Lee Nursery, one of the farms in Lim Chu Kang that were affected.

On Saturday (Mar 31), a day after heavy rain and strong gusts of wind hit the western part of Singapore, Koon Lee manager Mac Teo said recovery work could easily take two months and cost at least S$50,000.

“I estimate that because most of my areas are damaged, we could be cleaning up for two months," said Mr Teo.

"If we had to rebuild everything, it would be in the hundreds of thousands. But I don’t think we’ll be able to do that because we’re required to move in January 2019 for the expansion of the airbase.

"That's about a year away and we don’t want to spend on the repairs and then move out straight away. But we can’t not do repairs ... then we can’t carry on our operations, so it’s a bit of a dilemma for us. It’s a difficult time for us,” he added.

Mr Teo said Friday's storm was "like a scene from a Twister" movie.

“There was a lot of howling. All it took was 30 seconds of very strong wind to cause this."

The Meteorological Service Singapore said the strongest wind gust it recorded on Friday was 133.3km/h at 3.50pm at nearby Tengah.

"This is the strongest wind gust recorded at our island-wide network of wind sensors since 2010," it said, adding that strongest-ever recorded wind gust was 144.4km/h in 1984 at the same location.

During Channel NewsAsia's visit to Koon Lee, members of the nursery staff were busy with repair work on tentage that had completely collapsed.

Mr Teo said the worker who was taken to hospital was still undergoing treatment for a head injury and broken finger.

More than half of his team of 20 workers have been redirected to help with recovery, said Mr Teo. The nursery was still accepting walk-in customers at a section that was not affected by the storm, but it was still "difficult" as a large amount of stock remained stuck under the debris, he added.

Chew's Agriculture, which rears chickens for eggs and is located next to Koon Lee on Murai Farmway, was also badly damaged.

The farm declined an interview, saying it was busy with "visits from authorities", but the damage was visible from Koon Lee - rows of chicken houses were completely flattened and there was still poultry trapped underneath the rubble.

Govt to help with cleanup, rebuilding of damaged farms
Cheryl Tee Straits Times 1 Apr 18;

The Government will support the cleanup and rebuilding efforts of Lim Chu Kang farmers whose premises were damaged by a torrential downpour and unusually strong winds on Friday, said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development Koh Poh Koon.

Farms hit the hardest by Friday's storm were Chew's Agriculture, Williton Orchids, Koon Lee Nursery and Goh Swee Hoon fish farm.

Dr Koh gave the assurance of help in a Facebook post yesterday after visiting the farms in Murai Farmway, near the Lim Chu Kang Cemetery, along with the chief executives of the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and the National Parks Board (NParks), as well as members of the Singapore Agro-Food Enterprises Federation.

At Chew's, an egg producer, some chicken houses were flattened. Stray chickens were seen picking their away among the debris which was their home less than two days ago.

The chicken farm declined to comment, but a farm employee said the driving rain, which started before 4pm on Friday, came in "like a tsunami". "Many chickens died. Some escaped," he said.

Another worker said: "Suddenly, the tin houses on both sides of the road started shaking. Everyone went inside, nobody dared to go outside. In 15 minutes, the trees started falling down."

Both declined to give their names as they were not authorised to speak to the press.

Damaged buildings and toppled trees were scattered along Murai Farmway when The Sunday Times paid a visit yesterday.

Wind during storm that damaged Lim Chu Kang farms hit 133kmh, the strongest since 2010
Tucked away in a side lane, Sevenseas Fisheries suffered fewer battle scars than its neighbour. But the fish and frog farm will still need at least two weeks before it returns to its former state, said operations manager Bernard Goh.

The family business stopped all operations on Friday when the storm tore through its premises.

"Yesterday, we couldn't operate at all. We are now trying to rush some major repairs so operations can run," said Mr Goh.

The damage included broken water pipes and electric cables, which cut off the farm's water filtration system. The automated system supplies fresh water from a larger reserve pond to the farm's fish and frog ponds. A handheld pump in use in the interim supplies only 20 per cent of the volume of water.

The storm also ripped the roof off its frog enclosure.

Wire mesh has been laid on top as a stopgap measure to ward off direct sunlight. Roof repairs for the enclosure will be done this week.

But Mr Goh worries if bad weather in the week ahead will spawn a nightmarish rerun of Friday's events. "We are scared it will rain again. The weather forecast says it will rain this whole week in the afternoon," he said.

Along with AVA and NParks, the Singapore Land Authority and the Building and Construction Authority will also step in to help, said Dr Koh in his post.

A 38-year-old worker at a plant nursery was taken to hospital on Friday with minor injuries.

Wind gust in Friday's storm strongest in eight years
Wind speed hit 133.3kmh in Tengah; experts say more intense storms here may signal extreme weather events
Rahimah Rashith Straits Times 1 Apr 18;

The strongest wind gust in eight years was recorded during Friday's thunderstorm which battered several farms in Lim Chu Kang.

Wind speed hit a high of 133.3kmh at nearby Tengah at 3.50pm, said the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) yesterday.

"This is the strongest wind gust recorded on our islandwide network of wind sensors since 2010," it added. The highest-recorded wind gust is 144.4kmh, also in Tengah, on April 25, 1984.

The force of the winds on Friday caused some zinc panels to cut into tree branches. Several chicken barns at egg farm Chew's Agriculture were flattened.

These gusty winds over north-west Singapore, including Choa Chu Kang, were due to "strong downdrafts from thunderstorm clouds which reached heights of around 16km", said MSS.

The typical height of such clouds is 10 to 12km.

Experts said that Friday's storm was nothing out of the ordinary, although more intense storms in Singapore can be a harbinger of extreme weather events to come.

Assistant Professor Winston Chow of the National University of Singapore's (NUS) geography department said the storm was localised in nature and did not affect other parts of Singapore as much.

"Such thunderstorms are relatively normal occurrences in Singapore at this time of year."

Professor Benjamin Horton, associate chair of Asian School of the Environment (ASE) at Nanyang Technological University, said the heavy rain and cool weather were not surprising as they are part of the north-east monsoon season.

The storm occurred at the end of this monsoon season, which ushers in the beginning of spring with consistently warm temperatures, he added.

The rain across Singapore on Friday, which fell between 2.10pm and 5pm, was heaviest over western Singapore around Jurong and Choa Chu Kang, said the MSS.

It was caused by the convergence of winds over the Strait of Malacca and Singapore, coupled with favourable atmospheric conditions - namely, moisture and temperature - that led to thunderstorm clouds forming islandwide, it said.

Prof Horton said: "The strongest wind gust was 133.3kmh, but this extreme wind speed was felt only over a very short period of time - less than 20 seconds - and was followed by a lull. In contrast, tropical cyclones have hurricane-force winds that can be felt for days."

While no single event can prove climate change, a series of erratic weather patterns like frequent flash floods and more intense storms in Singapore can signal a bigger change, say experts.

Prof Chow said the storm was "one single event" and "to show climate change influence, we need to see a signal from a multitude of events". However, there is evidence of more extreme weather events in Singapore in recent years, which could likely be due to climate change, he added.

Dr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development, highlighted the broader issue of climate change after he visited the affected farms in Murai Farmway yesterday.

"The farmers shared with me that they now see the unpredictable and damaging effects of more extreme weather patterns on their livelihood due to climate change, and are determined to leverage better technology to mitigate against disruptions," he said.

Ms Jennifer Walker, graduate student of ASE, noted that 2016 is the warmest year on record globally and in Singapore, which had an annual mean temperature of 28.4 deg C.

"As the temperatures warm, oceans are giving off more water vapour. In theory, extra water vapour in the atmosphere should pump heat into big storms, adding buoyancy that causes them to grow in size and power and produce the wind gust we saw on March 30," she said.

Wind gusts over 80kmh can cause damage
The strongest wind gust recorded during Friday's storm was 133.3kmh.

It was the strongest wind gust recorded by the islandwide network of wind sensors since 2010.

Generally, wind gusts exceeding 80kmh can cause damage such as toppled trees.

Wind speeds exceeding 100kmh can damage individual buildings and roofs. They can also disrupt or restrict road, rail, water and air traffic.

They can also move securely anchored objects with a larger surface area, such as tents and scaffolding, as well as movable objects such as garden furniture.

Rahimah Rashith