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‘Flash floods ahead’: PUB to put to use flood response vehicles, automatic flood barriers as monsoon season draws near

SINGAPORE — To brace for coming storms and flash floods as the northeast monsoon season approaches, national water agency PUB has introduced several new measures, including having a fleet of dedicated flood response vehicles and automatic flood barriers.

‘Flash floods ahead’: PUB to put to use flood response vehicles, automatic flood barriers as monsoon season draws near

PUB's flood response vehicle (left) and an officer from the agency's Joint Operations Centre monitoring conditions on the roads (right).

  • PUB said intense rainfall could temporarily overwhelm Singapore’s drainage capacity
  • It needs to therefore introduce measures that can keep the public out of harm’s way during flash floods
  • Some initiatives include a fleet of 13 flood response vehicles and automated flood barriers

 

SINGAPORE — To brace for coming storms and flash floods as the northeast monsoon season approaches, national water agency PUB has introduced several new measures, including having a fleet of dedicated flood response vehicles and automatic flood barriers.  

These initiatives will improve its rainfall forecasting, monitoring, and flood response capabilities to “keep public and motorists out of harm’s way during flash floods”, it said in an announcement on Friday (Nov 19).

DEDICATED FLOOD RESPONSE VEHICLES  

This is the first time PUB has spoken publicly about its dedicated fleet of 13 flood response vehicles, even though they have been progressively deployed since April this year.  

Modified according to its requirements, they have features such as a global positioning system (GPS) tracker and a “pan-tilt-zoom” camera to stream real-time vehicle location and flood conditions on the road to its Joint Operations Centre.

The flood response vehicle from PUB has a camera to stream real-time flood conditions on the road to its Joint Operations Centre. Photo: PUB

PUB said that the features will allow it to better coordinate the vehicles’ deployment remotely, as well as direct and assign a response team more quickly to locations where heavy rain is expected. 

Officers from PUB's quick response team for floods. Photo: PUB

Beyond that, the vehicles are also able to cut through higher floodwaters of up to 700mm and are stocked with portable flood barriers and inflatable flood bags. 

“When onsite, PUB officers may need to close off affected road sections, direct traffic away from floodwaters and deploy flood barriers,” the agency added.  

AUTOMATED FLOOD BARRIERS

Building owners will now also be able to consider installing an automated flood barrier that has already been tested by PUB.

The automated barrier uses approaching floodwaters to buoy itself up and block flood water from entering a space.

It lowers back to its original position underground when water levels subside “without the need for any human or mechanical activation”, PUB said.

An automated flood barrier installed at the entrance of a condominium (top) and when it is lowering after a flood subsides (bottom). Photo: PUB

The agency had tested the barrier in July this year at the entrance of Fortune Park condominium in Tampines, which leads to its basement car park, and determined that it was a “viable and cost-efficient solution” for flood protection.

“We encourage building owners to implement the automated flood barrier as part of the flood protection measures for existing developments situated in low-lying areas,” it advised. 

BOOSTING FLOOD MONITORING CAPABILITIES

PUB’s catchment and waterways operations system, which is used for real-time monitoring of reservoir and drainage operations, have also been expanded to include flood-related data from across the island.  

This includes water-level sensors, flood response vehicle locations, video surveillance cameras and rainfall forecasts. 

Having all this data on a single platform “greatly enhances monitoring efforts” at its Joint Operations Centre, PUB said.

Officers at PUB's Joint Operations Centre at work. Photo: PUB

Other initiatives include:

  • Investing close to S$2 billion on drainage improvement works
  • Launching a new channel on messaging application Telegram on Nov 10 to provide the public with timely updates on heavy rain, potential flood risk locations and flash floods areas
  • Doubling the number of X-band radars to six. These are used to gather precipitation data

PUB said that the added radars will improve the accuracy of its rainfall measurements and forecasts, and allow it to be more timely with public alerts and the deployment of resources to potential flood locations.

As climate change brings about more frequent and intense rainfall that could temporarily overwhelm Singapore’s drainage capacity, the ability to forecast and monitor impending heavy storms “becomes more important than ever”, it added.

Flash floods have been in the spotlight in the second half of this year, with two separate incidents happening in August alone.

On Aug 20, five people had to be rescued from four partially submerged vehicles after heavy rain triggered severe flooding for nearly two hours near Ikea Tampines at the junction of Tampines Avenue 10 and Pasir Ris Drive 12.

Construction firm Samwoh Corp has since been charged on Nov 9 over alleged unauthorised works that led to the flood.  

Four days after the incident near Ikea Tampines, similarly intense rainfall led to a deluge in Bukit Timah

On Tuesday, the Meteorological Service Singapore said that wet weather is forecast to continue for the rest of this month, with intense thundery showers expected on one or two of these days. 

Although the second half of the month is not expected to be as wet as the past fortnight, the overall rainfall for November is forecast to be above average over most parts of Singapore.

Some experts in environmental science previously told TODAY that Singapore can expect more erratic weather events to occur in future, though they were split on whether to attribute this phenomena to climate change.

Related topics

flash flood flooding PUB wet weather rain monsoon climate change

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