Feb 5, 2007

Hillview estate hit by another mudslide

BCA declares three homes out of bounds after latest incident

By Tracy Sua & Teh Joo Lin

ANOTHER mudslide, probably triggered by wet weather, hit semi-detached houses in Upper Bukit Timah's Hillview estate.

This 'avalanche' in Jalan Dermawan happened recently, along the same slope and about 100m away from the first one.

The first time it happened on Dec 19, three houses were swamped by mud and debris. The affected families have since been given the all-clear and have moved back home.

The Building & Construction Authority (BCA) has now declared three houses - Nos. 100, 102 and 104 - out of bounds.

The families in 100 and 102 were spared the shock of seeing mud and debris crashing into their homes because they managed to evacuate three hours before the retaining wall in their backyards gave way; the family in 104 made it out of there just in time.

The BCA issued the order to the families to evacuate after it had been alerted to soil movements by the Defence Ministry, which had installed movement sensors there in late December.

On the evening of the second mudslide on Jan 12, Daniel Lim, a 16-year-old student living in No. 106, was playing computer games in his room at about 9pm when he heard a crash.

He recalled: 'It was not that loud, more like a table crashing...Then I heard one of the neighbours shout 'Get out!' and all of us rushed out.'

A mess in the backyards of Nos. 100, 102 and 104 greeted the residents: Soil and vegetation, till then held back by the wall, was all over the backyards.

The most affected house, No. 102, had debris about one-storey high covering the maid's room and kitchen; No. 100 had a new wall of mud kissing its back wall. A mini basketball court that used to put 10m between the house and the slope was gone; No. 104's backyard was piled with broken pieces of the wall and vegetation.

The next day, the land owner, Far East Organization, laid canvas sheets to protect the slope. It teamed up with Mindef's professional engineers to remove soil from the hilltop to reduce the load on the slope and to stabilise it. Movement detectors have also been installed to check for shifts in the soil, which has seemed stable since.

One of the three households has accepted Far East Organization's offer of accommodation.

Hong Kah GRC MP Ang Mong Seng, who recently met the estate's residents, BCA, Far East Organization and Mindef about the situation, said Mindef and Far East Organization were doing 'a good job' with slope works and clearing the debris.

At Jalan Girang in Braddell estate and Westlake Avenue off Thomson Road, slope-shoring works are also going on, following landslides in late December.

A Land Transport Authority spokesman said the debris from a Jan 12 landslide at Jalan Anak Bukit near Beauty World has been cleared. The slope has been covered with canvas and the slip road to the Pan-Island Expressway has been reopened.

Meanwhile, as the rains abate and the Chinese New Year approaches, nurseries along Thomson Road are going all out to recoup the millions in losses they incurred in the December floods. Ms Sharon Goh, who runs Candy Greenhouse & Flowers, said: 'We have to earn back to cover our losses.'

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