Over 4,000 S’pore residents and 1,000 homes affected by Upper Bukit Timah bomb disposal operation

This is the largest evacuation exercise involving the detonation of a World War II relic, which weighs 100kg.

Gabrielle Chan, Carmen Sin, Samuel Devaraj and Lynda Hong

Gabrielle Chan, Carmen Sin, Samuel Devaraj and Lynda Hong

The Straits Times


This is the largest evacuation exercise involving the detonation of a World War II relic. PHOTO: THE STRAITS TIMES

September 27, 2023

SINGAPORE – The proprietor of Karu’s Indian Banana Leaf Restaurant will lose $8,000 on Tuesday – a day’s worth of earnings – as he shuts his shop for the detonation of a World War II-era bomb nearby.

But Mr Subramaniyam Nallappan, 57, will not be able to stay home either as he is one of more than 4,000 affected residents who will have to evacuate their homes when the 100kg projectile is detonated.

The Straits Times understands that more than 1,000 homes are affected.

The bomb was found last Wednesday at a construction site in Upper Bukit Timah Road and will be blown up there, as it is too dangerous to move it.

This is the largest evacuation exercise involving the detonation of a World War II relic.

The police said residents of The Linear, Hazel Park, Hazel Park Terrace and Block 154 Gangsa Road, as well as shophouses in Upper Bukit Timah Road, must evacuate during the disposal operation from 8am to 7pm on Tuesday.

Mr Subramaniyam said: “I have no choice but to close my restaurant, but I am quite relieved our safety is being taken seriously.”

He is also a resident of Hazel Park condominium, which is among the homes affected, and will be spending the day at the Singapore Zoo with his wife and two children instead.

“Since this is happening, my family decided to take a self-declared day off,” he said.

Karu’s Indian Banana Leaf’s neighbour, Jal Yoga, is expected to lose $11,000, said the studio’s manager Abir Singh. He said it has to refund 250 clients as it had to cancel 10 classes.

Mr Singh said: “We had to activate all our staff on Monday to call each member about the cancelled classes. We are right in front of the construction site, so I feel a bit unsafe.”

As a precaution, a Shell service station nearby will remove fuel from its underground tanks and close the station temporarily, said a spokesman. The station will reopen on Thursday.

Housing Board residents at Block 154 Gangsa Road learnt of the detonation plan at a town hall held at Greenridge Secondary School on Sunday.

One of the residents, Mr Wong Kwet Phin, 70, said some raised questions about who would foot the bill for any property damage at the meeting, which around 400 people attended.

In an advisory to residents seen by The Straits Times, the police advised residents to keep their windows open as there is a chance of them shattering from the blast.

Mr Wong, a former interpreter, said the temporary holding area at Senja-Cashew Community Club (CC) may be too crowded, though his main concern is for the safety of his glass fish tank – a gift from his late brother – and the 10 fish inside.

“It is for me to remember my brother… Hopefully, nothing will happen to it,” he said.

Another resident, Mr Garry Ong, 51, said he would likely also leave his two-year-old cat Kristabella behind.

But Mr Ong’s biggest gripe is the disruption to his 12-year-old daughter’s preparations for her Primary School Leaving Examination, set to begin on Thursday.

He said: “We don’t want to take a chance that the holding area will have a proper place for her to really sit down and study. So, my wife is taking her somewhere to study. Maybe a cafe.”

Mr Ong, who lives with his wife and children, said he had trouble sleeping after learning about the bomb on Sunday. He said: “Since it is already out, there is a possibility it can go off any time.”

The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) said Singapore’s buildings are engineered to withstand tremors, including those caused by distant blasts.

It told ST that measures to limit the impact of any potential blast and to minimise disruption to the nearby environment are in place.

It added: “After the disposal operation, a team of 46 engineers from the BCA will inspect the structural integrity of buildings within a 200m safety radius around the relic site.”

The engineers will look for any signs of damage to external building features, and check for any structural distress in key areas such as beams and columns in common areas of the buildings.

A spokesman for HDB said it will carry out checks at Block 154 Gangsa Road before and after the bomb disposal to ensure the building remains structurally sound. These checks include inspecting the block’s common areas like the void deck and corridors for any visible cracks in reinforced concrete structures.

National water agency PUB said it will conduct a physical inspection as well as tap remote technology, such as sensors and closed-circuit television, to monitor the operating condition of water pipelines and sewers in the area.

The bomb was found at the construction site for The Myst condominium during excavation works, the police said on Sunday.

The area within a 200m radius of the explosive will be cordoned off for the detonation, they added.

The 100kg projectile, believed to be one of the largest wartime bombs unearthed in Singapore, will be disposed of by the Singapore Armed Forces Explosive Ordnance Disposal team.

Greenridge Secondary School, which is located within the 200m radius of the detonation site, will be conducting home-based learning (HBL) for its students on Tuesday.

The school’s principal, Mr Ng Boon Kiat, told ST that the school is familiar with HBL arrangements as these have been regularly practised as part of blended learning, where students learn through a mix of home-based and in-school activities.

Students who live within the safety cordon have been advised to study at a relative’s or friend’s home, or at the CC.

In a Facebook post on Monday, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said the CC will be open from 6am on Tuesday.

Dr Balakrishnan, who is MP for the ward in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC where the bomb was found, said special attention will be given to the vulnerable, seniors or those with disabilities, and the Silver Generation Office will coordinate with the necessary nursing and medical support facilities.

He added that residents who need special arrangements for transport to the holding area can contact the CC.

Snacks and Internet access will be provided at the holding area, with a designated space for residents with pets.

On Tuesday, between 11am and 7pm, SMRT bus services 67, 176, 178, 961, 970, 979 and 983 will skip several bus stops affected by the temporary closure of Upper Bukit Timah Road due to the detonation of the relic, SMRT said on Monday.

The management committees of The Linear and Hazel Park declined to comment on their evacuation plans when contacted by ST.

City Developments, the developer of The Myst, also declined to answer queries and directed ST to the authorities instead.

Surrounding roads – the Bukit Panjang flyover between Woodlands Road and Petir Road, and Upper Bukit Timah Road between Petir Road and Cashew Road – will also be closed from 11am to 7pm on Tuesday.

Though the discovery of wartime munitions is not uncommon, the size of this bomb and the scale of the evacuation are unusual.

In 2016, a 100kg bomb relic was found and disposed of at a Mandai construction site. No civilian evacuations were reported.

In 2019, 600 residential units were evacuated when a 50kg World War II bomb was found and later detonated near the former site of popular nightclub Zouk.

In 2021, another bomb relic from the war was found at a temple construction site in Geylang, prompting the evacuation of 100 people.

Another bomb was found in 2020 at a corner terraced unit in Bishan, but only 12 households were affected.

  • Additional reporting by Kolette Lim, Ang Qing, Christie Chiu and Vihanya Rakshika
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