Flash floods shut down part of AYE for 40 mins

SINGAPORE - Flash floods hit many parts of western Singapore on Thursday morning, shutting down a citybound stretch of the Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE) for 40 minutes during morning rush hour.

Cars were stranded along the expressway, after water from the heavy rain, which could not find its way into the bloated Sungei Pandan Kechil canal, spilt onto the 90m stretch, creating a 0.5m deep pool.

It is not the first time that the canal has overflowed onto the expressway, although Thursday's episode was the worst.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said PUB, the national water agency, will have a lot to do in that area now. "I think it's not acceptable to have a major expressway shut down because of a flood, so I told PUB we've got to do our best to make sure this doesn't recur in the future."

The most immediate task, he said, is to expand the culverts immediately to the south of the AYE. For the long term, PUB will look at expanding the canal. A barrage may even be necessary, added Dr Balakrishnan.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said 119.2mm of rain was dumped before noon on Thursday.

That is more than the amount of rain that fell for the whole of last September - 107.6mm.

At least five trees were uprooted by the torrential downpour, including one during evening peak hour on Orchard Road which blocked four of its five lanes.

Two cars were hit by the tree outside Singapore Visitors Centre, with a pregnant woman who complained of giddiness taken by ambulance to the hospital.

Earlier, the Bukit Timah area also faced pile-ups after two trees fell on cars in Dunearn Road and Sixth Avenue. A Jaguar bore the brunt of a large fallen tree at Dunearn Road, with its exterior crushed and its seats exposed.

The driver, a retiree who wanted to be known only as Mr Seah, told The Straits Times: "I was on my way home when I heard a loud bang. Thank goodness I did not get a heart attack."

PUB said the heaviest rainfall was recorded at Kent Ridge, where several facilities in National University of Singapore were submerged in knee-high water.

Third-year life sciences student Uthara Nair said: "It was like the making of Atlantis - benches and chairs were completely covered, and water was coming down the stairs."

Commonwealth Drive was also badly hit, with major congestion after the Sungei Ulu Pandan canal overflowed as well. At least two lorries and a car broke down at the junction of Commonwealth Avenue and Commonwealth Drive, with water levels reaching the car's steering wheel.

Expect more rain than average in the next two weeks. NEA says south-west monsoon conditions will mean the likelihood of short thundery showers in the late morning and early afternoon, and widespread showers with gusty winds in the pre-dawn hours on one to two days.

PUB advises the public to exercise caution as flash floods may occur when there are heavy storms. Information is available from its 24-hour call centre on 1800-284-6600 or its Facebook page.

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