Thought Monday’s floods were bad? Back in 1978, a flood caused landslides & claimed 7 lives

It was one of the worst floods in our history.

Henedick Chng | January 10, 05:45 pm

On Monday (Jan. 8), floods hit many parts of our island, after intense rainfall and “tidal influence”.

Sky dumped half a month’s worth of rain on one part of S’pore in 4 hours

The rain was so heavy that the 118.8mm of rainfall recorded in the Kim Chuan Road area was about half of Singapore’s average monthly rainfall in January.

It was fortunate though, that no one was hurt or killed in Monday’s floods. A few vehicles became submarines:

Volvo becomes submarine along Upper Changi Road during Monday ponding

But we also saw some heroics:

Changi Fire Station SCDF personnel pushed vehicles, diverted traffic in flood

And some cheer, too:

Flood in S’pore failed to dampen golden Mercedes woman’s sunny disposition

As a country with a tropical climate and high rainfall, flash floods do sometimes happen here. One of the worst of these, in fact, happened in December 1978.

One of the worst floods in Singapore’s history

On Dec. 2 and 3, 1978, more than 30 square kilometres of Singapore was inundated by 512mm of rain that fell over a 24-hour period.

That, by the way, constitutes a quarter of Singapore’s 2,400mm annual average rainfall.

To put that in clearer terms, that is three months’ worth of rain falling within 24 hours — imagine almost four and a half times the amount of rain that fell on the Kim Chuan Road area on Monday.

Coinciding with the high rainfall in 1978 was also an exceptionally high spring tide of 1.64m above mean sea-level. A spring tide occurs after a full moon when the sea is bulging more than usual, which means higher high tides, and lower low tides.

7 deaths from drowning, electrocutions

According to reports from that day, the floods caused chaos around Singapore and saw more than 1,000 people evacuated from their homes. Landslides occurred in some housing estates.

The Straits Times, Dec. 3, 1978. Source: NewspaperSG

Electricity and telephone lines were disrupted.

The Straits Times, Dec. 4, 1978. Source: NewspaperSG

Tragically, the floods caused at least seven deaths. Some were killed by touching live lamp posts during the floods.

The Straits Times, Dec. 3, 1978. Source: NewspaperSG

Among those who died was a 10-year-old primary school boy who fell into a flooded drain and drowned.

New Nation, Dec. 5, 1978. Source: NewspaperSG

Here are some photographs of scenes from the flood that day:

It affected farms:

Source: NAS

Shops:

Source: NAS

And homes:

Source: NAS

It looks like in some cases, people had to hold hands to get across the flood waters safely:

Source: NAS

And sights like this are always encouraging:

Source: NAS

And just like on Monday, traffic was slowed down greatly, and in some cases stopped completely. Here are some drivers giving up on their submarines:

Source: NAS

The cars here lagi worse. Even the huge bus wheels are no longer visible in this photo:

Source: NAS

Scary times, those were. Over the decades, drainage and water catchment systems and networks have improved significantly, thanks to the efforts of our public utilities board, but after some time, we do come to accept that in this day and age, it’s tough to be fully prepared for nature’s whims and tantrums.

Top image from NAS.

1819 is a labour of love by Mothership.sg. We tell stories from Singapore’s history, heritage & culture. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!

About Henedick Chng

Henedick loves food. He is always hungry. In between his eating binges, he cooks and is just another food blogger who anyhow shares his recipes and dining adventures with the world.

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