Woodleigh MRT closure: Man arrested after using baking flour to mark running trail

Woodleigh MRT closure: Man arrested after using baking flour to mark running trail
PHOTO: The New Paper

Just over two weeks after Hougang MRT Station was closed for security checks related to an unattended bag, a similar incident occurred at Woodleigh Station yesterday.

Woodleigh, which is the third stop from Hougang on the North East Line, was closed for about three hours from 1.25pm as a precaution after a cleaner found suspicious white substance on the premises.

The police and the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) hazardous materials (hazmat) team later determined the white substance to be flour.

A 69-year-old man was arrested for an offence of public nuisance after leaving the flour in the station, the police said.

Two other men, aged 53 and 70, who were with the suspect, also assisted with police investigations.

The police said: "The white substance was subsequently established to be flour used to mark a trail for their running route."

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The New Paper understands the three men are local joggers from the running group Seletar Hash House Harriers. Its website shows that a run was scheduled yesterday at 5.30pm from Block 150, Serangoon North Avenue 2.

In hashing, advance runners set a course for other runners by marking out a trail with white flour, toilet paper and/or chalk marks.

When TNP arrived at Woodleigh at 2.10pm, the station had been cordoned off.

SCDF's hazmat officers collected at least seven vials of samples of the substance that had been sprinkled at various locations - near trees, grass patches and stairs outside the station, as well as at the concourse level in the station.

While some commuters were frustrated by the station closure, most understood why it had to be done.

Reaction on TNP's Facebook page was mostly positive, with some leaving words of praise for the police and SCDF officers, thanking them for their hard work.

But elsewhere online, there were snide remarks about the "over-reaction" of the authorities in closing Woodleigh.

Read also: Suspicious substance found at Woodleigh MRT station

APPROPRIATE

Terror experts contacted by TNP cautioned against such apathy when facing potential terrorism threats and stressed that what the authorities did was appropriate.

Mr Andrin Raj, South-east Asia regional director for the International Association for Counter-Terrorism and Security Professionals, said that terrorist groups could be doing a trial run to study the arrival of first responders to see what vulnerabilities they could exploit.

Associate Professor Kumar Ramakrishna, head of policy studies and coordinator of the National Security Studies Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said: "I think the authorities were doing due diligence by responding to the incident.

"People making comments online need a reality check. We in Singapore are dealing with the paradox of success... Terrorist groups will try to hit Singapore precisely because it has a global reputation of being a prized, iconic target."

MP for Potong Pasir Sitoh Yih Pin told reporters at the station: "There was no over-reaction. We must not take chances in situations like this."

Housewife Judy Zhou, 39, who has two children, said: "I thought it was quite reassuring because it shows the Government is concerned about the safety of the country."

- Additional reporting by Isabelle Liew, Adeline Tan and Julia Tan


This article was first published on April 19, 2017.
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