Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Halimah Yacob's neighbours welcome president from HDB heartland, Politics News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Halimah Yacob's neighbours welcome president from HDB heartland, Politics News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Halimah Yacob's neighbours welcome president from HDB heartland

Mr Lee Swee Seng has run his HDB provision shop in Yishun Avenue 4 for 17 years, and in all that time, Madam Halimah Yacob and her family have been his loyal customers.

Mr Lee, 53, sees her family members almost every day - his iEcon minimart is the closest shop for them to pick up groceries such as bread and beverages.

But with his neighbour set to be Singapore's next president, Mr Lee, like many of Madam Halimah's neighbours, is feeling a mix of emotions. "This is very special because she will be Singapore's first woman president, and we are very proud that someone like her who lives in an HDB flat in Yishun could become president," he told The Straits Times yesterday in Mandarin.

Madam Halimah's election to the highest office in the land would most probably see her move out to a more easily secured residence.

The former Speaker of Parliament had said publicly that should she be elected, she intended to continue living in her HDB home.

She, however, had also acknowledged that she might have to move owing to the challenges of keeping a president safe and secure in a public housing estate.

For her neighbours, this would mean missing a friendly face in the lift, and warm chats in the void deck. Newspaper vendor G. Dabamani, 54, said Madam Halimah would often ask how she was doing and if she was benefiting from government policies like Workfare.

"We are sad because we might not be able to see or talk to her in the lifts anymore. If she stays here, I would be so proud - my president lives in the same block as me!" said Madam Dabamani.

Safety officer Henry Lim, 57, will miss seeing someone he knows as a hardworking champion of the people who has no airs.

"She is very friendly, humble and down to earth. She doesn't behave like a VIP," said Mr Lim, who has lived in the estate for over 20 years.

The 12-storey HDB block built in 1987 has been home to Madam Halimah, 63, and her family for more than two decades. She has lived there throughout her 16-year political career - she became an MP in 2001, was appointed Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sport in 2011, and elected Speaker of Parliament in 2013.

Her home of two adjacent HDB flats, bought on the resale market, is nestled in a cluster of HDB blocks and tucked away in a neighbourhood that looks like any other. The corridors are cluttered with the everyday items of HDB life - bicycles, potted plants and school shoes.

Apart from CCTV cameras perched on the walls near her unit, there is nothing to suggest the block houses an important leader who will be Singapore's head of state.

Residents say Madam Halimah has always been low-key, and security in the area is discreet.

But this might change when Madam Halimah becomes president-elect today. Last evening, policemen in plain clothes were seen stationed at the foot of her block and patrolling the area.

Mr Lee said: " I would understand if she doesn't live here after becoming president... but what is special about her is whether she was an MP, Minister of State or Speaker, she was living here, among us."

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Friday, September 8, 2017

Six killed after 'strongest quake in a century' strikes off Mexican coast, small tsunami recorded, Americas News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Six killed after 'strongest quake in a century' strikes off Mexican coast, small tsunami recorded, Americas News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Six killed after 'strongest quake in a century' strikes off Mexican coast, small tsunami recorded

MEXICO (REUTERS, AFP) - A powerful earthquake struck off the southern coast of Mexico late on Thursday (Sept 7), the United States Geological Survey (USGS) said, killing at least six people, triggering small tsunami waves but causing no major destruction. 

The USGS put the quake's magnitude at 8.1. It said the epicentre was 123km south-west of the town of Pijijiapan, in the southern state of Chiapas, at a revised depth of 69km.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said the magnitude was 8.2, the strongest in a century in the country, AP reported. 

The quake was also stronger than a devastating 1985 tremor that flattened swathes of Mexico City and killed thousands, but initial reports of damage in the city were limited.

Waves as high as 0.7m were triggered in Mexico, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PWTC) said. Widespread, hazardous tsunami waves were possible within three hours, it added. 

"Based on all available data... widespread hazardous tsunami waves are forecast for some coasts," the PWTC said earlier. "Tsunami waves reaching more than 3m above the tide level are possible along the coasts of Mexico," it said, with lower waves in other countries.  

The tsunami warning was for the coasts of Mexico, down through Central America into Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama and Honduras, and as far south as Ecuador.

"The tsunami risk on the Chiapas coast does not represent a major risk, it's not very big, it's not a major worry," Nieto said in a call to TV network Televisa. 

The president said more aftershocks were likely and that people should carefully check their homes and offices for structural damage and for gas leaks. "We are alert," he said.

As far as 14,000km away in the Philippines, the national disaster agency put the country's entire eastern seaboard on alert for a possible tsunami. No forced evacuation was ordered, but residents were told to monitor emergency radio broadcasts.

However, there was no tsunami threat for the American Samoa and Hawaii, according to the US Tsunami Warning System. 

Four people were killed in the state, Governor Manuel Velasco said. Two children were killed in neighbouring Tabasco state, Governor Arturo Nunez said.


A number of buildings suffered severe damage in parts of southern  Mexico. Some of the worst initial reports came from Juchitan in Oaxaca state, where sections of the town hall, a hotel, a bar and other buildings were reduced to rubble.

Windows were broken at Mexico City airport and power went out in several neighbourhoods of the capital. 

Rescue workers laboured through the night in badly affected areas to check for people trapped in collapsed buildings.

People in the capital, one of the world's largest cities, ran out into the streets in pyjamas as alarms sounded after the quake struck just before midnight, a Reuters witness said.

Helicopters hovered overhead a few minutes later, apparently looking for damage to buildings in the city built on a spongy, drained lake bed.

In one central neighbourhood, dozens of people stood outside after the quake, some wrapped in blankets against the cool night air. Children were crying.

Liliana Villa, 35, was in her apartment when the earthquake struck and she fled to the street in her pyjamas. "It felt horrible, and I thought, 'this is going to fall'."

President Nieto ordered schools to remain closed Friday in Chiapas and Mexico City so officials could inspect for structural damage. He said on Twitter he was overseeing the emergency response from the National Disaster Prevention Centre's headquarters.

The quake also shook buildings as far away as Guatemala. 

USGS reported six aftershocks, ranging in magnitude from 4.5 to 5.7.

State oil company Pemex said it was still checking for damage at its installations, which include the Salina Cruz refinery in the same region as the epicentre.

"I had never been anywhere where the earth moved so much. At first I laughed, but when the lights went out I didn't know what to do. I nearly fell over," said Luis Carlos Briceno, an architect, 31, who was visiting Mexico City.  

Transformers blowing after serious earthquake hit in

— Vincent McCarthy (@AskTheVman)

Scary moment as a magnitude 8 hits México City tonight stay safe CDMX 🙏🏻🇲🇽

— Jay Z(amora) (@Jay_MCMLXXXIX)

Earthquake lights

— Jona (@jonyhoffman)

Praying for Mexico

— SecureIn (@SecureInCanada)

This is from an office in Mexico City hit by the 8.4 earthquake.

— Mikel Jollett (@Mikel_Jollett)

The independence monument at downtown Mexico City...

— hdu (@tuentijuanpilos)

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Sunday, September 3, 2017

New trail on St John's Island marking out its history and vast biodiversity, Singapore News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

New trail on St John's Island marking out its history and vast biodiversity, Singapore News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

New trail on St John's Island marking out its history and vast biodiversity

SINGAPORE - The National Parks Board (NParks) is beefing up offerings on idyllic St John's Island by launching a 2.8 km trail marking out its history, natural habitats and vast biodiversity.

On Saturday (Sept 2), Second Minister for National Development and Home Affairs Desmond Lee launched the new trail, along with other features, at St John's Island, which is located approximately 6.5 km to the south of the main island of Singapore.

The trail includes 15 stations and will take visitors through various eco-systems on the island, including mangroves, coastal forests and intertidal zones.

Wildlife in the area include hawksbill turtles, Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphins, the Great-billed Heron, and many heritage trees.

"The centre of gravity of our conservation approach cannot be to keep people away from nature. Instead, we want to instill a sense of wonder and appreciation among Singaporeans for our blue and green areas," said Mr Lee.

Exhibits at the Sisters' Islands Marine Park Public Gallery on St John's Island - once a quarantine centre for new migrants with infectious diseases - have also been given a new lease of life.

The centre, which receives more than 100 visitors a month, now has a 5m-long mangrove mesocosm, a tank that holds wildlife known to mangroves and also mimics the actual tides in the mangrove.

There are also aquarium tanks showing corals and giant clams, and a 2m-long viewing pool with sea anemones, starfishes and clown fishes.

Mr Lee also announced the formation of the friends of the Marine Park community, comprising boaters, divers, scientists, fishermen and more, who will work on projects to conserve the island.

For example, the community will see dive professionals helping to maintain the dive trail and developing guidelines for kayakers entering the park.

Visitors to St John's Island can get there on a 30-minute ferry from Marina South Pier which departs every two hours from 9am-3pm on Saturdays, and from 9am-5pm on Sundays. On weekdays, the ferry runs at 10am and 2pm.