Thu, Dec 25, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Singapore’s Ferris wheel catches fire

THINGS HAPPENRescue teams brought a dozen people down a sling in a dramatic operation while others waited in the cars until the power came on

AFP , SINGAPORE

Singapore officials yesterday were investigating a fire at the world’s biggest observation wheel that left almost 175 tourists trapped for hours, some of them dangling high in the sky.

Tuesday night’s fire in the control room of the Singapore Flyer shut down the 42-story-high observation wheel, leaving customers stuck for six hours before power was restored.

Rescue teams brought 10 people down in a sling in a dramatic operation while others waited in the Flyer’s cars, each one enclosed and about the size of a small city bus, until the power came back and the wheel began turning again.

Police said they had ordered the attraction closed pending an inquiry into the incident, the fourth power outage at the Flyer since it opened earlier this year.

“A thorough investigation is being conducted,” said Fulvia Wong, a spokeswoman for the operator of the Singapore Flyer, one of the city-state’s most popular tourist attractions.

A total of 173 passengers were aboard the Flyer when a small electrical fire caused the stoppage, said Steven Yeo, general manager of the attraction. It was the fourth power outage at the Flyer so far.

“I love Singapore, but I don’t think I’ll come to the Flyer again,” said Meta Hartono, an Indonesian visitor who told of trapped passengers urinating in plastic bags while hanging in the air waiting to be rescued.

But other tourists said they were unfazed by the incident and would like to ride the wheel when it reopens.

Briton David Wiles, who had booked a Christmas eve date with his wife on the Flyer under a package that offers champagne, chocolates and strawberries, said he only learned of the closure from the newspapers yesterday.

“We were really excited about getting on the Flyer,” he said, but added: “These things happen, you expect them to have occasional problems.”

Wiles said he had asked his travel agency to notify him once the Flyer reopens so he can take the ride.

Malaysian tourist Tan Yean Choo, 54, said she was a “little disappointed,” but also hoped the Flyer would reopen before she returned home.

At 165m, the Singapore Flyer is 30m taller than Britain’s London Eye.

Unlike old-style Ferris wheel carriages that hang in the open air, the Singapore Flyer and other large observation wheels feature fixed capsules.

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