Police cars were overturned and burned, and rioters were hurling rocks.
Amid the danger and confusion, Mr Jonathan Choo composed himself enough to snap the photo that won him News Picture Of The Year at Singapore Press Holdings' English and Malay Newspapers Division (EMND) Annual Awards 2013 on Tuesday.
The awards honour and recognise the best works of those in the newsrooms.
Mr Choo's gripping, gritty photo of the Little India riot that shocked the nation last year also won an award at the prestigious Society For News Design's (SND) Best Of News Design contest last month.
The photo was distributed internationally by wire agency AFP, appearing in The Wall Street Journal and China Daily Asia.
It also made the first page of many Malaysian newspapers.
Though this was not his first time winning News Picture Of The Year at the EMND Awards, Mr Choo, 57, said he was extremely proud of his photo this year.
"I'm elated. The picture is very special to me. Even after 33 years in the news line, I've never covered anything like that in Singapore before," he said.
The senior executive photojournalist said he did not think the situation would be so serious when he went to cover it.
IN THICK OF ACTION
"It's Singapore. I never expected this kind of thing to happen here," he said.
But upon reaching Little India that night, he got himself in the thick of the action.
Recalling the scene, he said: "Rubbish was everywhere, everything was a mess and there were vehicles on fire. It reminded me of a scene after a war."
Like him, Mr Kelvin Chan was also particularly proud of his infographics, Population 2030, which showcased how to balance Singapore's population in 2030.
It won the Infographics Of The Year at the EMND Annual Awards on Tuesday.
Mr Chan, 43, art director of news graphics at TNP, had the challenging task of turning the big population numbers into easy-to-understand segments after the release of a government White Paper with a detailed projection of Singapore's population.
He broke down the population numbers into a simple and vibrant design within a few hours, after a brainstorming session with an editor.
"We wanted to use diagrams with simple shapes and colours to get the message across to our readers, and it worked," he said.
This was his fifth win at the EMND Annual Awards, but Mr Chan said the awards still motivate him to do better.
"It's really an honour to be recognised for your work, and it's humbling that your peers appreciate what you're doing," he said.
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