Tue, Jan 27, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Big wheel in Singapore reopens after breakdown


The world’s biggest observation wheel reopened yesterday after a pre-Christmas fire trapped passengers for hours and led to a one-month shutdown of the attraction.

The Singapore Flyer began turning with its first load of at 50 least passengers at about 11:40am.

In a press release, the Flyer said it had obtained, late on Sunday, the license allowing it to operate again. The Flyer said authorities issued their approval after German-based firm TUV SUD gave the attraction “a clean bill of health” following tests of a new backup system for turning the wheel. TUV SUD says it has tested amusement rides around the world.

The Flyer’s primary drive system has also been repaired and enhanced, the release said.

“Safety has always been our top priority ... and we are confident that passengers in the Singapore Flyer will now enjoy the safest and most comfortable flight,” Flyer chairman Florian Bollen said in the statement.

Passengers buying tickets for the first “flight” of the wheel said they had no safety concerns.

“Because, actually, after it’s broken down I would expect it to be working fine now,” said Mark Haslett, 49, a tourist from England who showed up at the wheel unaware that it had been closed.

Peter Prakongtham, from Bangkok, said he was looking forward to his ride and said the attraction was well managed.

On Dec. 23 a small electrical fire, which police have ruled an accident, trapped 173 people inside the Flyer’s enclosed cabins until power was restored six hours later, but 10 were rescued dramatically using harnesses. Two were taken to hospital.

Bollen, who was waiting to join the first passengers as service resumed, said the authorities and contractors worked night and day to get the Flyer ready.

“I feel very happy,” he said, expressing confidence that “business will be good again.”

Bollen has said the Flyer’s financial health was fine despite the month-long closure. Losses were insured, he said, without providing a figure.

The 42-story Flyer is 165m high, 30m taller than Britain’s London Eye, the company that built it said. Since the accident, emergency supplies including water and blankets have been placed in every observation capsule, the Flyer said.

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