SINGAPORE: The Housing and Development Board (HDB) launched 3,739 flats for sale on Tuesday (Feb 12) in the first Build-To-Order (BTO) and Re-Offer of Balance Flats (ROF) exercise of 2019.
Of these, 3,162 are BTO units which will be spread across five projects – three in the non-mature towns of Jurong West and Sengkang, and two in the mature town of Kallang Whampoa.
The five projects are Boon Lay Glade, Jurong West Jewel, Fernvale Vines, Kallang Breeze and Towner Crest.
The flats are priced from S$95,000 for a 2-room Flexi in the Boon Lay area to about S$523,000 for a 4-room in Kallang Whampoa.
Eligible first-timer families can get up to S$80,000 of housing grants, the release said. These include up to S$40,000 of Additional CPF Housing Grant (AHG) and up to S$40,000 under the Special CPF Housing Grant (SHG).
“With these grants, flat buyers could pay as little as S$15,000 for a 2-room Flexi flat, S$110,000 for a 3-room flat, S$197,000 for a 4-room flat, and S$333,000 for a 5-room flat," said HDB.
Flat allocation priority will still be given to first-timer families, the release said. Those who wish to live with or stay close to their parents will also be given the option to do so.
Couples who wish to live with their parents can apply for a Three-Generation (3Gen) flat in Jurong West or Sengkang. Meanwhile, those who wish to live close to parents or married children in the same BTO project can submit a joint application under the Multi-Generation Priority Scheme.
RE-OFFER OF BALANCE FLATS
In addition to the BTO flats, 577 unselected flats from the Sale of Balance Flats exercise in May last year will also be on offer.
These consist of two to five-room flats, as well as 96 units of 3Gen and three executive flats across various towns and estates.
At least 95 per cent of the flat supply will be reserved for first-timer families and up to 5 per cent for second-timer families, HDB said. Should they meet the prevailing eligibility conditions, elderly may apply to buy a 2-room Flexi flat.
However, families will be given priority for flat selection.
HDB said about 13 per cent of these ROF flats are already completed, while the rest are under construction.
“Eligible families with more urgent housing needs and/or who are less particular about location and attributes may wish to apply,” it added. “Under ROF, home buyers will be able to select their flats quicker, and from a bigger pool of balance flats for different flat types and in different locations.”
Prices for ROF under this exercise start at S$179,000 for a 3-room in a non-mature town. Three-generation flats in mature towns are priced from S$559,000.
Interested buyers may apply for the flats on offer from Tuesday to next Monday. However, they will only be able to take part in either the BTO or ROF exercise, not both.
The next HDB flat launch will be in May. This exercise will offer about 3,400 flats in Kallang Whampoa, Tengah and Woodlands.
SINGAPORE: Red-amber-green arrow traffic lights will be installed at several junctions along Upper Bukit Timah Road after a spate of accidents, Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said.
There were 15 accidents on this road between 2017 and 2018, with eight involving vehicles that had been making right turns or U-turns, he said in a written answer to a parliamentary question by Member of Parliament Rahayu Mahzam on Monday (Feb 11).
Ms Rahayu had asked how many complaints were received about speeding vehicles at Upper Bukit Timah Road, particularly at night along the stretch outside Springdale and Southaven (I & II) condominiums.
She also asked how many accidents occurred in that area.
In his reply, Mr Shanmugam said that between 2017 and 2018, there were 14 calls and letters by members of the public to the traffic police about speeding vehicles along Upper Bukit Timah Road.
Eight of the cases occurred at night, but none of the reports involved the stretch of road outside the condominiums, he said.
Of the 15 accidents that occurred along Upper Bukit Timah Road, only one was likely caused by speeding, he added.
"To help motorists make right turns and U-turns more safely, LTA will install red-amber-green arrow lights at some traffic junctions along Upper Bukit Timah Road, including the stretch of road outside the two condominiums, by the end of this year," Mr Shanmugam said.
SPEED CAMERAS TO BE INSTALLED IF NECESSARY
Ms Rahayu also asked what would be done to reduce speeding in the area and whether speed cameras would be installed.
Mr Shanmugam said "prominent signage" has been installed outside Springdale condominium to remind motorists of the speed limit.
The traffic police will also continue to conduct regular enforcement operations in the area to deter vehicles from speeding, he said, adding that if necessary, speed cameras will be installed along the road.
A 25-year-old man died last October after the car he was in smashed into barricades and a tree along Upper Bukit Timah Road.
The accident, which happened at 1.30am, occurred near Springdale condominium.
LTA announced in April last year that it will install red-amber-green arrows in as many of the 1,600 traffic junctions in Singapore as possible in the coming years.
This means that motorists will have to wait for the arrow to turn green before making a right turn.
The announcement came after two fatal accidents at Clementi and Bukit Timah, where both drivers collided with oncoming vehicles while trying to turn right.
Red-amber-green arrows are usually implemented at junctions where the motorists' view is obstructed, at intersections near road bends or at major intersections where right-turning traffic does not have a good view of oncoming traffic, LTA said.
KABUL: Acting US defence secretary Patrick Shanahan arrived in Afghanistan on Monday (Feb 11) on his first trip in the role and said it was important the Afghan government is involved in talks, from which it has so far been excluded, to end the 17-year-old war.
Shanahan, who will meet US troops and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, said he had so far not received any direction to reduce the nearly 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan.
He also said the United States has important security interests in the region.
Ghani's government has been shut out of the evolving peace talks between Taliban negotiators and US envoys, with the hardline militant movement branding his government a US puppet. Kabul is also concerned that a sharp drawdown of US forces could lead to chaos in the region.
"It is important that the Afghan government is involved in discussions regarding Afghanistan," Shanahan told a small group of reporters travelling with him on the unannounced trip.
"The Afghans have to decide what Afghanistan looks like in the future. It's not about the US, it is about Afghanistan," he said.
Shanahan took over from Jim Mattis, who quit in December over policy differences with US President Donald Trump.
He said he could not make any guarantees because US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad was leading the talks.
"The US military has strong security interests in the region. (The) presence will evolve out of those discussions," Shanahan said.
He also said his goal on the trip was to get an understanding of the situation on the ground from commanders and then to brief Trump on his findings.
US officials have held several rounds of talks with the Taliban in Qatar since last year in what is widely seen as the most serious bid yet for peace in Afghanistan since the Taliban were ousted by US-backed Afghan forces in late 2001.
Both sides hailed progress after the latest round last month, although significant obstacles remain. Those include the involvement of the Afghan government, which the Taliban refuse to acknowledge.
The next round of talks is due in Qatar on Feb 25.
Michael Kugelman, a South Asia specialist at the Woodrow Wilson Center, said Shanahan's main priority in Kabul should be to address Afghan government concerns.
"The top priority of Shanahan has to be to impress upon the government that we're going to do everything we can to get you into this conversation," Kugelman said.
SINGAPORE: Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said in Parliament on Monday (Feb 11) he was sorry for the recent National Service (NS) training deaths, as he pledged to hold the Defence Ministry (MINDEF) and Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) accountable for every soldier entrusted to them.
“I am deeply sorry for the loss of four precious NSmen (national servicemen) in the last 17 months,” he said in a ministerial statement addressing the deaths. “MINDEF and the SAF will hold ourselves accountable for every single NSman entrusted to us.”
The most recent NS training death was that of NSman Aloysius Pang. The 28-year-old died on Jan 23 after sustaining injuries while carrying out repair work on a Singapore Self-Propelled Howitzer (SSPH), as part of his reservist duties in New Zealand.
Before that, full-time national serviceman (NSF) Liu Kai died on Nov 3 last year after a Bionix vehicle reversed into the Land Rover he was driving, while NSF Dave Lee, 19, died on Apr 30 last year, nearly two weeks after showing signs of heat injury following an 8km fast march.
NSF Gavin Chan, 21, died on Sep 15, 2017 after he was ejected from a Bionix during another overseas exercise in Queensland, Australia.
“This imperative of NS and our national defence does not absolve or reduce the accountability of MINDEF and the SAF in any way, to ensure safe training,” Dr Ng said.
“On the contrary, it compels MINDEF and the SAF to do all that is humanly possible to prevent training deaths for NSmen because precious sons have been entrusted to us by their families.”
Dr Ng’s statement comes after MINDEF revealed on Jan 31 that it will set up an Inspector-General's Office (IGO) to ensure a command emphasis on safety across all SAF units.
“This move also responds to ERPSS (External Review Panel on SAF Safety) finding that while the safety policies and management systems of the SAF are largely in place, there was a need for more compliance checks and ground level audits,” Dr Ng said.
COMMANDERS PUNISHED FOR SAFETY LAPSES
Among several measures to drive home a culture of safety and enforcement against slack practices, SAF unit commanders found to have committed safety lapses will be penalised during their performance review, Dr Ng revealed.
“Commanders of units which do not meet standards and have committed lapses in safety procedures and processes will have this marked against them in their performance reviews,” Dr Ng said.
“Let me emphasise that such commanders will be marked as having performed unsatisfactorily even if accidents have not occurred. This is the right emphasis to prevent accidents.”
The SAF will also increase safety audits of units by inspection teams – supervised by the IGO – at the Services, Dr Ng said. “More safety officers will be deployed to assist individual units and supervise training activities,” he added.
Several Members of Parliament questioned if the SAF punished safety lapses even if they do not lead to death.
Dr Ng noted that over the past three years, an average of 2 per cent of servicemen a year were punished under the SAF Act for committing safety lapses.
Punishments ranged from a fine to detention, he added, as well as administrative penalties like delays in promotion and reduction in benefits.
Dr Ng also reiterated that servicemen, regardless of rank, are encouraged to report “unsafe practices and risky behaviour” to their superiors without fear of reprisal.
“Once notified, the Conducting Officer should verify the report and when necessary rectify the safety breach or unsafe practice,” Dr Ng said, referring to the Training Safety Regulations. “The Conducting Officer must update the Supervising Officer on the measures taken to rectify the safety breach or unsafe practice.”
Servicemen can also report safety incidents and near-misses through a 24-hour safety hotline, Dr Ng said, noting that the hotline receives about 140 calls each year.
On the other hand, servicemen who demonstrate safe behaviour will be rewarded, Dr Ng said. These units and individuals are recognised during the Service’s respective annual Safety Day.
“If we are to achieve zero fatalities during NS training, we must have a strong safety culture in all our units, and safety consciousness down to the last soldier,” Dr Ng said, stressing that commanders and supervisors must lead by example.
“Soldiers must have a strong respect for safety rules, take care of one another, and speak out on safety concerns. Incentives and disincentives must be aligned to achieve the right safety outcomes.
“Ultimately, safety is both a command and individual responsibility, and everyone needs to play their part because precious lives depend on it.”
Beyond internal safety measures, Dr Ng said an external agency – the ERPSS – also reviews the SAF’s safety system. The ERPSS comprises prominent safety experts and professionals outside the SAF.
The SAF's safety system is also aligned to international frameworks and regulations, Dr Ng said, adding that it comprises rules that mitigate safety risks, reporting mechanisms to ensure rules are followed, and consequences if they are not followed.
Dr Ng also said it was not possible to outsource all maintenance work with heavy vehicles or machinery as complex maintenance tasks that require specialised tools and equipment are already outsourced.
“But we still need NS technicians to be with their units to perform basic maintenance so that the equipment can function during operations,” Dr Ng stated.
Despite that, Dr Ng maintained that servicemen are given time to adjust from civilian to military settings.
For instance, a safety brief is held before any activity to ensure guidelines are fresh in the minds of participating soldiers. Inspections are also conducted to ensure soldiers are in good physical state, and that vehicles and equipment are serviceable.
“Soldiers must also complete an individual risk assessment checklist and raise safety concerns to their superiors for mitigation before an activity begins,” Dr Ng said.
NS training is also progressive, Dr Ng said, noting that it starts with refresher training for individual skills and proficiencies before operations are conducted. Prior to deployment, further training - such as with a simulator - is conducted.
“The IGO will review if further mitigating measures are needed to help NSmen adjust from civilian life to ICT (In-Camp Training),” Dr Ng stated.
FOUR DEATHS IN 2012
Besides the recent NS training deaths over the past 17 months, there were four deaths in 2012 alone. This includes the death of NSF Dominique Lee after sustaining breathing difficulties due to fumes from smoke grenades.
But Dr Ng pointed out that there were no fatalities from 2013 to 2016.
“This was probably due to multiple factors, but I think the new safety measures we put into place after the devastating incidents of 2012 had an effect,” Dr Ng said. “If we put our minds and efforts to achieve zero training fatalities, it can be achieved.”
If a death does occur, Dr Ng said MINDEF will consider requests from a deceased serviceman’s family when deploying immediate family members during NS.
“As deep as the hurt, as great the loss, we must not forget why we suffer them,” he stated.
“When the founding generation pledged themselves to build a strong SAF, they were fully conscious that a strong military is only possible with fully committed NSmen drawn from every family in Singapore.”
Death of NSF Liu Kai: Bionix driver continued reversing despite stop commands, police investigating comms between crew
SINGAPORE: The Committee of Inquiry (COI) which investigated the death of full-time national serviceman Liu Kai found that the Bionix driver involved in the incident continued reversing despite commands to stop, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen told Parliament on Monday (Feb 11), adding that ongoing police investigations are looking into the communications between the Bionix crew, and whether this was affected by the equipment.
“The COI noted that the rear guide had repeatedly given the order for the driver to stop reversing through the intercom via the CVC helmet. The COI noted that the intercom system was working earlier in the exercise. They have asked for an independent technical assessment report on whether the intercom system was working properly all the time,” said Dr Ng.
“In parallel, police investigations too are also focused on the communications between the Bionix crew, and whether this was affected by the equipment. This is an important point that needs to be resolved but we will have to await the outcome of police investigations.”
CFC Liu, 22, died on Nov 3 last year, after a Bionix vehicle that was moving away from simulated enemy fire reversed into the Land Rover the full-time national serviceman was driving.
The COI was chaired by a civil servant, and included members such as a consultant doctor from the public sector, a member from the External Review Panel on Singapore Armed Forces safety, a senior-ranked national serviceman and a member of the Workplace Safety and Health Council.
Based on the Land Rover’s front camera and in-vehicle video recordings of the incident and statements from multiple witnesses, the COI was able to piece together a “detailed chronology” from these recordings, said Dr Ng.
The COI’s investigations also found that the Land Rover CFC Liu was driving was “short” of the safety distance of 30m stated in the training safety regulations (TSR) during its final position, he added.
While the Land Rover was initially not in the Bionix’s path when it reversed, according to the COI findings, the Bionix had “drifted” in reversing and the driver made a slight steer to correct the drift. This brought it into the path of the Land Rover.
“The COI made several findings in their report: first, the COI noted that ensuring the safety distance is the responsibility of the vehicle commander of the Land Rover. In this case, the Land Rover ended up in a position that was less than the required safety distance from the Bionix; second, the reversing of the Bionix from the simulated enemy encounter brought the Land Rover into the path of the Bionix,” said Dr Ng.
CHAIN OF EVENTS
Sharing details on the incident, Dr Ng said that the 42nd Battalion Singapore Armoured Regiment was conducting a two-sided company mission exercise at the Jalan Murai training area. During the exercise, trainers from the Active Unit Training Centre were assigned to evaluate exercise troops.
CFC Liu was assigned to drive a trainer, an SAF regular captain, who was the vehicle commander of the Land Rover.
CFC Liu and the trainer were following an assigned Bionix, whose crew consisted of four personnel - all full-time national servicemen - a vehicle commander, a Bionix specialist who was the rear guide, a driver and a gunner.
The exercise began at 7am and at around 9.58am, the Bionix crew spotted several exercise vehicles passing by at the junction ahead of it and stopped as ordered by the vehicle commander. Responding to this, the Land Rover driven by CFC Liu also stopped.
As instructed by his trainer, CFC Liu moved his Land Rover forward to overtake the Bionix. But upon hearing the shots which were fired as part of the exercise, CFC Liu stopped the Land Rover in its final position without overtaking the Bionix.
“Based on the COI’s calculations, this final position of the LR (Land Rover) would have been at a distance of ‘at most 19.8m from the Bionix, but short of the safety distance of 30m stated in the TSR (Training Safety Regulations),’” said Dr Ng.
Four seconds after the Land Rover had stopped, the Bionix started to perform an extrication drill ordered by its vehicle commander, carried out to get away from an enemy encounter as “fast as possible”.
The Bionix had to reverse as part of the drill so that its guns could continue to fire forward at the enemy. As the driver of the Bionix is unable to see behind, the rear guide directs the driver in reversing the vehicle.
“The COI acknowledged the need for this type of training, even though it is high risk,” added Dr Ng.
As the Bionix reversed, the Land Rover was initially not in its path.
"The COI found that the Bionix had ‘drifted’ in reversing and the driver made a slight steer to correct the drift. This steer brought the Land Rover into the path of the Bionix,” said Dr Ng.
“Almost immediately” after the Bionix started reversing, the rear guide issued stop commands repeatedly into his helmet set, said Dr Ng. But, the Bionix continued to reverse.
“The COI found that the rear guide issued stop commands into the intercom of his helmet set when the Bionix started reversing and did so repeatedly,” Dr Ng added. “The intercom of the helmet is the rear guide’s only means of communication with the other crew members in the Bionix. However, the Bionix continued to reverse.”
The video recording from within the Land Rover showed the trainer “tapping” CFC Liu and signalling for him to reverse the Land Rover, said Dr Ng.
“From the beeping sounds, it also indicated that CFC Liu did engage the reverse gear,” he said. “Both the trainer and CFC Liu also shouted and gestured with their hands for the Bionix to stop and the trainer also attempted to reach for the handset of the radio set to communicate with the Bionix crew.”
Close to eight seconds after Bionix started reversing, it reversed into the Land Rover and mounted the driver's side before coming to a stop.
While the trainer managed to extricate himself, CFC Liu remained trapped. The trainer notified the conducting officer of the exercise, who immediately ordered the exercise to stop.
A medic on board a nearby Bionix tended to CFC Liu, while the SAF emergency ambulance service, unit medical officer and Singapore Civil Defence Force were activated and arrived on site.
CFC Liu was pronounced dead by the unit medical officer on site at around 10.35am. A post-mortem found the cause of death to be traumatic asphyxia.
COI’S ADDITIONAL FINDINGS
Servicemen involved in the exercise were “qualified” to participate, the COI found, and had undergone the requisite training for their roles.
The day before the incident, the trainer had met the Bionix vehicle commander to understand their manoeuvre plan for the next day's exercise. The trainer and CFC Liu again met on the day itself before moving out for the exercise.
“The COI was of the view that the servicemen involved had had their rest in accordance to the Training Safety Regulations (TSR), and that their mental and physical states were fit for participation in the activity and did not appear to have an effect on their attention to safety protocols,” added Dr Ng.
The Land Rover that CFC Liu driving was also found to be serviceable and the COI also concluded that a safety management plan was included as part of the exercise support, in accordance with standard practice.
In addition, there was also adequate deployment of medics and medical equipment as part of this plan for medical response.
Police investigations are also ongoing independently from the COI to determine culpability, said Dr Ng. Thereafter the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) will decide if any persons should be prosecuted.
“Internally, MINDEF will conduct its own investigations and may charge persons who breach military law in the Military Court, even if AGC does not file criminal charges,” he added.
Dr Ng said the COI will take into account findings from these separate judicial processes before finalising its report.
Singapore, 31 January 2019 – City Hot Pot at One Raffles Place was graced by artistes Danielle Gan and Lawrence Hiew, Malaysian Actor Eric Lay and Celebrity Chef Sing. The artistes and chef were treated to Shabu Shabu hotpot with a full table of good quality ingredients. They were also seen going around tables to meet the patrons and gave out healthy Purple Tea by Asia Farm Beverages.
Danielle, Lawrence, Eric and Chef Sing were treated to City Hot Pot’s Signature Yuan-Yang hotpot set. Freshly sliced meat were served, together with other seafood and vegetables. There are 15 different kind of soup bases for customers to choose from and each of the guests chose their preferred choice of soup.
Chef Sing expressed, “I have tasted all the soup bases we’ve ordered. They are rich and tasty; I can tell much effort were put into boiling the soup bases. The ingredient here are also very fresh and of high quality.” Upon heating up the hot pot, the aroma of the soups can be felt and with every slices of meat being cooked in the soup, it gets richer and tastier.
“The food ingredient here is so fresh, especially the prawns. I absolutely love them,” exclaimed Eric, which is his first time trying hot pot Shabu Shabu.
Both Danielle and Lawrence were glad that Eric and Chef Sing enjoyed their meal at City Hot Pot. “We were glad we recommended the right cuisine for our guest artiste Eric and also Chef Sing. We felt this is one of the best hot pot in Singapore which serve quality food as we had filmed a few variety programs here before.”
The artistes and chef were then seen going around the tables to invite the patrons to a bottle of free Purple Tea each, proudly sponsored by Asia Farm Beverages. They also took this opportunity to take photos with the patrons as they enjoyed the refreshing Purple Tea.
Celebrate Chinese New Year with City Hot Pot Shabu Shabu and Asia Farm Purple Tea.
City Hot Pot Shabu Shabu : One Raffles Place, #04-26/27/28
(Mon – Fri) 11:15 - 3pm; 5pm - 10pm
(Sat – Sun) 12:00 - 3pm; 5pm - 10pm
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Singapore, 31 January 2019 - Renowned Taiwanese Dry Noodle brand A-Sha had their second roadshow at Tampines Mall on 27 January 2019. Celebrity Chef Sing was there to specially create new dishes using A-Sha Dry Noodles. Emerging artistes Lawrence Hiew and Danielle Gan were present at the show, together with Malaysian Actor Eric Lay and artiste Dovel Mu.
The event attracted many fans and passers-by to crowd at the entrance. Goody bags were given out for every purchase of two packets of A-Sha Dry Noodles. The public were also treated to samples of the dry noodles specially cooked by Chef Sing.
Eric expressed that the noodles were really unique and healthy at the same time. "The texture of the noodles were springy yet not soggy. The taste were just right to my liking."
Chef Sing said, "A-Sha Dry Noodles were easy to prepare. We can add in an assortment of vegetable to mix with it, giving it a totally different flavour."
Asia Farm Beverages' Purple Tea was kind to support for the goody bags. "A healthy bowl of noodles to go together with our healthy Purple Tea. The Perfect match," said Asia Farm Beverages' person in charge.
A-Sha Dry Noodle would like to thank Asia Farm Beverages for the Purple Tea, Stip's Chips Singapore for the Stip's Chips and Kee Song Group for the Chick-Kwa, including Redwagon and House of Seafood for the gifts inside the goody bags.
A-Sha Dry Noodles are available at all NTUC FairPrice outlets Singapore.
CHICAGO: Bitter cold with temperatures lower than Antarctica gripped the American Midwest on Wednesday (Jan 30), grounding flights, closing schools and businesses and raising frostbite and hypothermia fears for homeless residents.
Mail deliveries were suspended and people encouraged to stay home in nearly a dozen US states where the mercury plunged into the negative double digits, the worst freeze to grip the region in a generation.
US media have attributed at least five deaths since the weekend to the freezing conditions and a major snowstorm that preceded the blast of Arctic air currently gripping the region.
In Chicago, blocks of ice floated on the downtown river of America's third-largest city and flames from gas burners heated regional commuter rail lines to keep them functioning.
The morning temperature in the Windy City was -22 degrees Fahrenheit (-30 Celsius), which felt like -50 degrees (-46 Celsius) with wind chill. It was colder than Alaska's state capital and even colder than parts of Antarctica.
"It feels like being close to dry ice, so I can feel my skin tighten up," Leon Gilbert, 31, told reporters.
Unlike most Chicago residents, Gilbert was required to report to his job at a Starbucks located on a downtown street largely devoid of its usual bustle of people and traffic.
More than 1,500 flights were cancelled at Chicago's two major airports while rail operator Amtrak scrapped train services from its hub in the city.
The US Postal Service - known for its commitment to bringing the mail whatever the weather - suspended deliveries in parts of Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Iowa, the Dakotas and Nebraska.
The cause of the sub-zero chill was a swirl of arctic air that broke away from the polar vortex that usually encircles the North Pole.
"There's cold, and then there's COLD!" the National Weather Service (NWS) said. "Extreme and dangerous COLD!"
The agency predicted temperatures to remain 25 to 45 degrees below average through Thursday, with wind chill values as low as -25 to -55 degrees Fahrenheit (-32 to -48 Celsius).
"The dangerously cold wind chills could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as five minutes," NWS said.
HOMELESS AT RISK
Residents in Grand Forks, North Dakota awoke to a bone-chilling -35 degrees Fahrenheit, and it was -27 degrees in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Authorities warned that the extreme temperatures were life-threatening, as Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin implemented emergency measures.
"The bitter cold temperatures pose a real risk to people across the state," Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker said on Twitter after touring state emergency operations.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer said government offices would remain closed through Thursday and nonessential employees would stay home.
"The National Weather Service continues to predict dangerously cold sub-zero temperatures and the priority must continue to be on keeping people safe," Whitmer said in a statement.
Authorities and health experts warned that frostbite and hypothermia could set in in minutes in the extreme cold.
Warming centres were opened for vulnerable residents such as the elderly and shelter capacities increased for the homeless, including the approximately 16,000 people estimated to live on the streets of Chicago.
In Chicago and Minneapolis, buses were used as roving warming shelters for the homeless.
Chicago's regional electric train service was canceled due to wire problems caused by freezing temperatures, as gas burners heated rail switches to keep trains moving on a reduced schedule.
Flight cancelations piled up throughout the United States, with more than 2,500 by mid-afternoon, stranding travelers such as Brandon Robinson who was spending extra days in a downtown Chicago hotel.
"I'm here until they let me leave," Robinson told reporters. "All my flights have been cancelled."
Remnants of a weekend snowstorm continued to plague portions of the northeast US - with strong winds and blowing snow reducing visibility on the roads.
Heavy snow was forecast in the northern stretches of Maine and snow squalls were predicted for other parts of the east coast of the country.
SINGAPORE: The labour market improved in 2018, with employment of locals growing in the fourth quarter of last year, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Thursday (Jan 31).
The annual average unemployment rates were lower than a year ago, while retrenchments were "significantly fewer", added MOM.
Total employment, excluding foreign domestic workers, increased by 15,600 in Q4. That was slightly lower than the 16,700 increase in Q3, the report revealed.
"The increase was due to employment growth in services, primary from seasonal hiring. Manufacturing employment decreased over the quarter, while Construction employment was unchanged," MOM said.
Overall in 2018, total employment, excluding foreign domestic workers, grew by 39,300, with the growth among locals at 28,400 - more than double that of foreigners. Local growth was primarily in the services industries, such as community, social and personal services, and financial and insurance services.
According to the latest report, average unemployment rates were lower in 2018 than the year before, but overall unemployment rate was higher in the last quarter of the year. It rose from 2.1 per cent in September 2018 to 2.2 per cent in December 2018, MOM said.
The number of retrenchments were also "significantly lower" in 2018 compared to the year before because of the economy's continued expansion, the report concluded.
Last year, 11,020 people were laid off while 14,720 were retrenched in 2017.
For the fourth quarter, retrenchment numbers stood at 2,800, similar to the 2,860 retrenchments recorded in Q3 and lower than 3,680 a year ago.
Singaporean workers continued to earn higher incomes in the last five years as well, said MOM. It added that the real median income, including employer CPF contributions, of full-time employed Singaporeans increased by 3.6 per cent per annum from 2013 to 2018, significantly higher than the 1.7 per cent per annum in the previous five years.
The labour growth outlook for Singapore "will remain modest due to the underlying demographics of an aging population and low birth rates", noted the ministry.
"As economic growth moderates, workers and businesses need to remain agile and responsive to economic restructuring and the evolving employment landscape," it concluded.
SINGAPORE: Seven men were arrested in Singapore waters over an illegal transaction of marine gas oil, the police said in a news release on Thursday (Jan 31).
The men, aged between 33 and 44, were arrested on Tuesday at sea off Pulau Sudong by the Police Coast Guard during a joint operation with the Maritime Port Authority.
Three of the men were crew members of a craft belonging to a marine service provider and another four were crew members of a foreign-registered tugboat, the police said, without specifying which country.
The crew members of the craft were believed to have taken 2.7 metric tonnes of marine gas oil without their company’s knowledge, and sold it to the tugboat crew, the police said.
The tugboat has been seized for investigations.
The three crew members of the craft will be charged in court on Thursday with criminal breach of trust as servant and the other four will be charged with dishonestly receiving stolen property.
"The Police Coast Guard and Maritime and Port Authority take a serious view of illegal transaction of marine fuel in Singapore waters. The Police Coast Guard will continue to conduct enforcement and security checks to prevent, deter and detect such illicit activities in Singapore waters," the police said.