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(During heavy rains in 1978, certain parts of Singapore were flooded. This passage relates the author's experience in rescue operations during the floods.)

When I arrived with my platoon at the makeshift headquarters at the Potong Pasir community centre, I was greeted by the volunteers who had gathered there to help. As might be expected, someone had installed a few electric kettles and were busy brewing coffee for the rescuers and the rescued. I looked at the sea of anxious young faces as they waited for instructions. Somehow the sight of me and my men in uniforms must have encouraged them to conclude that since the army was there, action would follow immediately.

But there was nothing I could do straightaway. I had to wait for the boats to arrive. I did not want to curb their enthusiasm, so I explained to them that the boats were on the way. They let out a groan of disappointment. In order not to let the army down, I explained that the boats were from another camp and had to go through an area which was flooded. One of the youths asked for a definite time by which the boats would arrive. Without any thought, I told him that I was sure they would arrive within an hour. They seemed satisfied at this and went back to cursing the rain and the system.

Even though I had said that they would, I myself was not at all sure that the boats would arrive soon. I had sent my best NCO, Sgt Rahmat, to collect the boats. I decided to put all my hopes on him and started to plan my rescue operation. A few young men who lived in the area suggested that the map I was looking at was useless. It was out of date and did not show exact locations where the houses were. They claimed to know the area better and volunteered to take us to the houses. The army had trained me not to do anything without a plan so I proceeded to draw a sketch map of the area. Then I asked them to help me to pin-point the exact locations of the houses. Reluctantly they agreed. Soon the map was filled with colorful pins.

I then proceeded to organize the rescue parties. I split the men into five teams. In each team I included a few of my men and a few of the young volunteers who had gathered there. I told all of them that they were to obey my corporals without question. Anyone who argued would be taken out of the team. As I was issuing them with life jackets, I heard the welcome horn of a 3-tonner. Sgt Rahmat had arrived and within the time I had estimated too. I looked around at the young men triumphantly and they nodded their approval.

In a situation like this, people usually listen to someone who spoke with authority. Frankly, I was not sure of myself as I had never been in a flood rescue operation before, even though theoretically, I knew what to do. I must have sounded like a general because I saw everyone listening to me and nodding their heads obediently. Finally, I told them to move out. They ran to the boats shouting excitedly. The last I saw of them, each team was carrying a boat and running along the road. Their enthusiasm reassured me that all would be well.

I sat there manning the radio set and keeping track of my rescue teams. I did not have long to wait as the first message came through. As planned, the boats had gone to the place where the flood waters were the highest. One of the new corporals sounded worried as he reported that an old lady did not want to be rescued. She was refusing to get down from the top of a cupboard and was insisting that the floods would subside soon. I knew there was only one thing to do, "Grab her!" I said. "Roger, out!" I heard and heard the corporal repeat my order to his henchmen. I smiled to myself as I thought wickedly of an old lady being carried kicking and struggling to the rescue boat.

Soon the first boat arrived. As I had predicted, it was Rahmat's boat. He seemed to be all hands as he grabbed the blankets and handed them out one by one. The grateful residents then followed the women folk to the rooms where they would be given a hot drink. I looked around at the warm Singaporeans swarming about, each wanting to do anything to help. I felt proud.

Since I had already set up the system of how the rescued were to be handled, I decided to leave Rahmat in charge and go out to where the action was. After all, I could be contacted by radio. Rahmat looked a little disappointed but smiled when I told him that he could go on the next trip; after I return.

   
  Questions
   
  1. (a) From the passage can you determine who the writer is?
    (b) What led the author to conclude that the young men who had gathered at the rescue headquarters expected immediate action?
    (c) Why was the author not able to act immediately?
    (d) Why was the commander confident that the boats would arrive soon?
       
  2. (a) In your own words explain why you think the author decided to plan everything.
    (b) Can you explain what the 'colorful pins' on the map represented?
    (c) How confident was the author of being able to carry out the operations?
    (d) Why do you think the author organized the rescue teams to comprise a mixture of his own men and volunteers?
       
  3. (a) Why does the author use the word 'wickedly' to describe his thoughts at the end of paragraph six ?
    (b) Why had the author predicted that Rahmat's boat would be the first to return ?
    (c) The seventh paragraph ends with the sentence, "I felt proud." Is the author's feeling justified ?
    (d) How different were the author's feelings at the end of the passage from those at the beginning ?
       
  4.   For each of the following words give one word or short phrase ( not more than seven words ) which has the same meaning as it has in the passage.
      i.   makeshift   v.   reluctantly
      ii.   curb   vi.   predicted
      iii.   immediately   vii.   henchmen
      iv.   exact   viii.   swarming
       
  5. Imagine that you are the author. Write a summary of the actions you took in planning and carrying out the flood rescue operations. Your summary, which should be in continuous writing, should not be longer than 160 words, including the ten words given below.

I arrived at the rescue operations headquarters in the afternoon .........

       
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  Answers
       
  1. (a) The writer is probably the platoon commander
    (b) The rescuers who had gathered there had anxious faces and they waited for instructions.
    (c) The boats had not arrived, so the platoon commander was not able to act immediately.
    (d) He had sent his best NCO on the job, so he was confident that the boats would arrive early.
       
  2. (a) The writer had been trained to always work to a plan. Hence he started to plan.
    (b) The pins on the map probably represented houses and other buildings.
    (c) He was new to flood relief operations and so therefore a little apprehensive.
    (d) He was responsible for the operations and wanted to make sure that he could command what was going on. Civilians may not carry out instructions.
       
  3. (a) He sees the humor in the situation of a group of soldiers forcing an old woman onto a rescue boat.
    (b) Rahmat was the best NCO in his platoon so naturally he expected his boat to arrive first.
    (c) The author is justified in being proud as he had seen so many Singaporeans so anxious a help.
    (d) At the beginning he was a little unsure of himself and towards the end very confident as he saw everything moving so smoothly.
       
  4. i temporary
    ii prevent
    iii at once
    iv precise
    v half heartedly
    vi foretold
    vii assistants
    viii crowding
       
  5. I arrived at the rescue headquarters in the afternoon. There were a lot of volunteers waiting to start work. they were relieved to see us. I explained to them that we had to wait for the boats, as they were coming from another camp. While waiting for the boats I started to plan. The locals were helpful as they knew the area well. Soon I had marked all the houses in the area on my map. Then Rahmat arrived with the boats and we started work. I organized the teams by mixing my men with the others. Then I sent them out. I stayed in the headquarters to control the operation. One of the NCOs had a problem in evacuating an old lady who refused to move. I directed that they force her into the boat. Rahmat's team arrived first. I then left him in charge and went out with a team to see what was happening. ( 158 words )
           
 
 
 
 
 

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Comprehension 1

 

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