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SMRT driver involved in lightning incident discharged

SINGAPORE — A train captain who had to be taken to the hospital after a lightning incident has been discharged, SMRT said on Tuesday (Nov 21) in an update on his condition.

A train captain in his 20s has been injured, after lightning struck the MRT train he was driving towards the Bedok station on Monday evening. Photo: Jason Quah/TODAY

A train captain in his 20s has been injured, after lightning struck the MRT train he was driving towards the Bedok station on Monday evening. Photo: Jason Quah/TODAY

Singapore

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SINGAPORE —  A train captain who had to be taken to the hospital after a lightning incident has been discharged, SMRT said on Tuesday (Nov 21) in an update on his condition.

It was initially reported that lightning had struck the MRT train he was driving towards the Bedok station around 4pm on Monday. The driver, who is in his 20s, was subsequently taken to the Changi General Hospital.

SMRT, which had earlier said it was investigating a "possible lightning strike", clarified on Tuesday that lightning did not strike the train. A thorough inspection by its engineers found no burnt marks.

Trackside equipment, however, was affected and a number of track circuits "experienced failure", said SMRT Trains chief executive Lee Ling Wee on Tuesday. He was speaking at a briefing on the Joo Koon collision on Nov 15, which injured at least three dozen commuters.

In a separate reply to queries from TODAY, SMRT said the train captain had been on medical leave for two days prior to the incident, adding: "After the lightning incident, he reported that he was feeling unwell and as a precautionary measure to ensure the wellbeing of our staff, he was admitted to hospital for observation."

The transport operator also reiterated an earlier reassurance that it is safe to travel in its trains during a lightning storm as they are protected by a “Faraday Cage”, an enclosure formed by conductive material that blocks electric fields and electric currents such as lightning strikes.

"During lightning, the electric current will travel through the outside shell of the train and not into the cabin.  It then travels through the wheels to the track," SMRT added.

A spokesperson for the Meteorological Service Singapore told TODAY on Monday that there was lightning over the northern, central and eastern parts of Singapore between 2pm and 6pm on Monday.

At around 3.37pm, a "cloud-to-ground lightning stroke" was detected close to the Tanah Merah MRT station, the spokesperson added.

The westbound train the SMRT captain had been driving stalled as it was approaching the Bedok MRT station after 4pm. He complained of feeling unwell after passengers were asked to alight at the Bedok station, and the train withdrawn from service for investigation.

Train services between Tanah Merah and Paya Lebar stations were reportedly delayed by about 10 minutes following the incident.

Commuters and those working in the area recalled seeing an intense lightning storm in the area at that time.

“The winds were so strong that it constantly pushed open the (glass) doors of the store,” said Mr Richard Pablo, 31, a store manager at the Bedok Mall, which is located across the MRT station.

Mr Brian Lee, an 18-year-old student who was waiting for a train at the Eunos station, recalled seeing a "not-for-boarding" message on the platform display screens for a train travelling towards Pasir Ris at that time.

On May 11, 2016, an SMRT train on the North-South Line was hit by lightning, disrupting southbound services from Yishun to Yio Chu Kang stations. - Additional reporting by Kenneth Cheng

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