SINGAPORE: Just before 4pm on Apr 20, 2004, Colonel Mohamed Nazim – then a young officer – noticed communication lines in his unit ringing off the hook.

Soon, the news came – a portion of the Nicoll Highway had collapsed.  

Col Nazim was activated, and he sped to the site of the incident in his emergency response vehicle, picking up Col Chew Keng Tok on the way.

On route, the officers from the Singapore Civil Defence Force’s (SCDF) elite Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (DART) planned on actions to take – but the site of the incident was more severe and chaotic than both men thought.

A deep ravine, caused when a temporary retaining wall of the tunnel at the Nicoll Highway Circle Line MRT station construction site collapsed, greeted the officers.

“It was something which we never expected,” said Col Mohamed Nazim.

“A container office was meshed together with a crane boom and a tipper truck in the cave-in. Water was seeping in from Kallang Basin, and the water level was rising very fast,” recalled Col Chew.

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