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WWII bomb at Upper Bukit Timah blown up, another detonation to follow

SINGAPORE – The 100kg World War II bomb relic found at a construction site in Upper Bukit Timah was detonated on Tuesday at around 12.30pm, after more than 4,000 nearby residents were evacuated in the morning.

The projectile, believed to be one of the largest wartime bombs unearthed in Singapore, will be disposed of by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Explosive Ordnance Disposal team in a series of controlled explosions.

The Straits Times understands this is only the first detonation and a second will follow later.

It is not safe for residents to return to their homes now.

A blast from the first detonation was heard from Block 153 Gangsa Road at 1230pm.

The Building and Construction Authority, national water agency PUB and the Land Transport Authority are expected to assess the construction site, roads, nearby drains and pipelines, as well as vacated condominiums and Housing Board flats for building and structural safety.

The authorities had told residents on Sunday that they should not be home between 8am and 7pm on Tuesday.

One of the designated areas for them to go to was the Senja-Cashew Community Club (CC).

When The Straits Times arrived there on Tuesday morning, about 100 residents were seen milling about, most of them elderly.

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, who is MP for the ward in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC where the bomb was found, visited the CC on Tuesday morning and spoke to some residents.

Dr Balakrishnan told reporters that he wanted to thank the agencies involved, including the police, the SAF, the Building and Construction Authority and the Housing Board.

He commented that the evacuation of residents went smoothly as they left their homes on time, and cooperated with the police. He said he was worried about traffic jams but it had been managed effectively by the police.

He said: “At the community level, you can see we’ve actually over-prepared, because we were not sure exactly how many people would need additional help. But we thought it’s better to over-prepare than under-prepare.”

He said because it was a work day, most people had gone to work, while students were at school and proceeding with their lives as they should.

Dr Balakrishnan said the authorities were focused on the vulnerable, and had to make arrangements for the bedridden to have access to their daycare.

He said there were facilities in Bukit Panjang and the wheelchair-bound were tended to at the CC.

He said he was very pleased with the community for supporting one another and that people remained calm.

“I am happy with the way the community has responded, the calmness and composure of our people and, of course, the professionalism of our agencies. So, a big thank you to everyone,” he said.

Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Vivian Balakrishnan visiting evacuated residents at a study and work room set up in Senja-Cashew Community Club, on Sept 26. PHOTO: The Straits Times

Dr Balakrishnan added: “Singapore is a well-organised calm, composed place where when things happen we are able to respond effectively. And because there’s that trust and cooperation and that sense of looking out for each other, it makes things so much easier.

“It’s another aspect of that strong Singapore spirit. So, a lot to be thankful for.”

Dr Balakrishnan said the next phase of the operation was the actual disposal of the bomb and his thoughts were with the SAF EOD personnel.

He said: “Obviously, our prayers and our best wishes go to them. They are the people who are actually on the front line. So let’s wait over the next few hours.

People’s Association grassroots leader Linda Ng said the CC would be able to hold 1,500 residents.

She said: “Residents have been streaming in since we opened, with some coming and going, but we’re expecting a surge of evacuees after 11am.”

The World War II relic was unearthed during excavation works last Wednesday at the construction site for The Myst condominium.

This is the largest evacuation exercise involving the disposal of a WWII-era bomb, affecting 1,000 residential units at The Linear, Hazel Park, Hazel Park Terrace houses and housing block units at Block 154 Gangsa Road. 

Ms Ng said a special programme had been planned for the day at the CC to stave off boredom for waiting residents. There will be video screenings in the morning and an arts and craft class in the afternoon.

Residents at a holding area at Senja-Cashew Community Club. PHOTO: The Straits Times

A study room with Wi-Fi has been set up at the CC for affected children, she added.

Before vacating their homes, residents were told by police to mark their doors with a green strip of paper.

Among the displaced were 25 dogs from dog daycare and boarding centre Rock n Ruff. They were taken to a shelter at Choa Chu Kang with trunks of food, feeding bowls, play pens and carriers. 

The bomb disposal operation also disrupted lessons at Greenridge Secondary School, which has switched to home-based learning for the day.

SMRT bus services 67, 176, 178, 961, 970, 979, and 983 will skip several bus stops affected by the temporary closure of Upper Bukit Timah Road on Sept 26. PHOTO: The Straits Times

SMRT bus services 67, 176, 178, 961, 970, 979 and 983 are also affected on Tuesday between 11am and 7pm. They will skip several bus stops in the closed off Upper Bukit Timah Road area.

In 2016, another 100kg bomb relic was found and disposed of at a Mandai construction site. No civilian evacuations were reported.

In 2019, 600 residential units were evacuated when a 50kg World War II bomb was found and later detonated near the former site of popular nightclub Zouk.

In 2021, another bomb relic from the war was found at a temple construction site in Geylang, prompting the evacuation of 100 people.

Another bomb was found in 2020 at a corner terraced unit in Bishan but only 12 households were affected.