Sunday, July 13, 2008

those days when floods were more common

this picture - from the national archives of singapore - really transports me back to the days where floods was something we had to live with year in and year out. we were quite ambivalent about it because on one hand, we could have fun playing in the rain and with the water but on the other hand, we had to lend a helping hand when it came to clearing up the mess after the deluge.

i like sharing my experiences from the past so as to give the younger generation a glimpse of how life was like in the 60s. floods visited us a few times every year, especially during the north-east monsoon season, when we lived in a kampong more than 30 years ago.

when it rained heavily and for sometime, we would be prepared for the milk-tea (teh susu) colour flood water entering our homes. the drains would overflow first and when the water level rose above the threshold, water would get into the house. initially, we would try to fight the 'tide' by using used cloths and old towels to build 'embankment' and to seal up the entry points but once the water entered the house, we would just be resigned to cleaning up after the water had receded.

from experience, we would make only feeble attempts to stop the water from making its way into the inside of our homes. it would be an exercise in futility. because there was no way we could seal all the gaps and points of entry. we just had to wait for the rain to stop and the water to subside, then we would get out our scoops and pails to bail out the water.

when flooding was severe, a lot of things would be carried away. the wooden planks that we had placed across the drain and things that were not anchored would be swept 'downstream'. your shoes, slippers and char kia (clogs) must be placed at places where the water could not reach. even the heavy buckets with human excreta from the common latrines would be carried away.

those crawly creatures whose homes had been disturbed would make their appearances. cockcroaches and centipedes could be seen on the walls and in areas not covered by water.

after the rain, children would be out of their homes to wade in the flood water. it was, however, a dangerous time to move around. no, not because of the creatures. the drains would be covered by the flood water and you would not know where the edges of the drains were. some could slip into the drain. once i had to drag to safety a smaller boy who had fallen into the swollen drain.

floods in the those days were usually blamed on the poor drainage system and heavy downpour coinciding with the high incoming tide.

when we moved into high-rise housing and development board (hdb) flats, the threat from overflowing drains just simply ebbed away.


Lam Chun See said...

Fun yes. But can be quite serious if your school is in Bukit Timah like mine was - ACS. One year it was around exam time when the floods came and caused havoc.

The Spore Univ field at Bt Timah used to look like a lake at those times.

yg said...

yes, i heard about that; the following year, moe came out with this proviso: in the event of heavy rain/flooding, 'o' and 'a' levels candidates can take their exams at any accessible centre nearer to their home.