Wednesday, April 21, 2004


from amos: part of Nicoll Highway has collapsed.

Road collapses along Nicoll Highway

A PORTION of Nicoll Highway near the Golden Mile Complex, where the MRT's Circle Line is being built, collapsed at 3:30pm on Tuesday.

Access to the road between the Kallang area and Suntec City has been blocked off by police and civil defence officers at the scene.

The casualties
One dead body - that of a Malaysian - has been pulled out of the rubble so far, and rescue teams, including search dogs, are on the job. Of the three people sent to hospital, two have been discharged after examinations by doctors. Three others, two Singaporeans and a Chinese national who were all construction workers, are still unaccounted for.

As night fell, rescue workers turned on powerful flood lights to continue their search. A civil defence spokesman said about 100 men were involved in the search and they were prepared to search all night.

If the men are not found by the end of Wednesday, heavy equipment will be brought in to remove the rubble in a stepped-up search.

One of the injured, a Thai male in his early 20s, is in the Singapore General Hospital and his condition is stable. Tan Tock Seng Hospital, also on standby for more casualties, has examined and discharged two other injured workers.

The aftermath
A hole the size of two basketball courts now occupies six lanes of Nicoll Highway. Motorists have been asked to avoid the entire stretch of the highway and to use other alternative routes to and from downtown.

Eyewitnesses said that the pedestrian bridge across the highway has also toppled over. Other reports said fires were blazing in the site. Water was gushing out onto the road, and some witnesses reported a strong smell of gas is in the air. Others felt tremors and heard blasts.

Gas and power disruptions
PowerGas confirmed that a section of a gas pipe along the highway was damaged by the collapse, but that engineers had shut off the supply. Gas supply to the area has, however, not been affected because alternative pipes are being used.

The collapse also interrupted the electricity supply to the Marina Centre area, affecting Suntec City, the Esplanade and Marina Square areas, according to a statement from Singapore Power.

A marketing communications manager working at the Suntec City told The Straits Times Interactive that the blackout occurred just before 4pm but was restored within 20 minutes.

Support beams gave way
The Land Transport Authority said that the collapse occurred around 3.30pm, when excavation works for the Nicoll Highway MRT station - part of Stage 1 of the Circle Line - near the Merdeka Bridge behind Golden Mile Complex collapsed.

A police spokesman said the support beams holding up the underground work site gave way. Some 20 workers were believed to have been working in the underground site at the time.

Police spokesman Tan Puay Kern has assured the public that the buildings in the area are undamaged and remain structurally safe. He also ruled out acts of sabotage or terrorism as the cause of the disaster, saying there was 'no evidence at this moment' to link it to terrorism.

Transport Minister visits disaster site
The Minister of Transport Yeo Cheow Tong visited the site in the early evening. Of the disaster, he noted that tunnelling had been used to build the MRT system for many years and that it was the first time this had happened. He added that no effort would be spared in sifting through the rubble to find those who are still unaccounted for.

The next key thing to do, he added, was to stabilise the ground in the area and to ensure the security and safety of the buildings.

He added that completion of the Circle Line would now have to be delayed, and that the highway - a main artery linking eastern Singapore with the Central Business District - will have to remain closed for the next few months.

He noted that traffic flow would inevitably be affected during this time. Motorists have been advised to use the East Coast Parkway or North Bridge Road to reach downtown.

SBS Transit announced that its bus services 10, 14, 16, 70 and 196, which normally ply Nicoll Highway, will now run along Kallang Road, Jalan Sultan, Beach Road and Bras Basah Road before resuming their usual routes. TIBS said its shuttle service 608 will use Beach Road instead of Nicoll Highway.

more details to follow later in tomorrow's edition of the ST.


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