Singapore

Singaporeans caught up in aftermath of Istanbul airport attack

National sprinter among S'poreans stuck at Ataturk Airport in aftermath of attack

Singapore athlete Dipna Lim-Prasad, 25, arrived at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport 30 minutes after it was attacked on Tuesday evening.

At least 41 people were killed and another 239 wounded in the attack after 9pm (about 2am Singapore time) by three men with explosives and guns.

She told The New Paper: "I felt quite safe because we were separated from the whole thing as we were still in the plane. If I were in the terminal when it happened, I'd probably freak out."

Ms Lim-Prasad was transiting in Istanbul on a Turkish Airlines flight from Portugal to Singapore with Mr Luis Cunha, national coach for sprints, relays and hurdles.

The national sprinter had trained and competed in Lisbon, Portugal, for a month.

The three-hour transit turned into a long wait after their flight to Singapore was cancelled.

It took them three hours to disembark and another fourto get seats on a 2am flight today to get home.

When they entered the terminal, it was packed with people but did not seem to be operating as the lights were off, she said.

She saw people clearing up debris and broken glass on the floor.

Speaking to TNP yesterday while stuck at the airport, Ms Lim-Prasad said she had been awake for close to 22 hours, and was still trying to settle their overnight accommodation.

WORRIED

"I think (family and friends in Singapore) were more worried about us because all they saw were the scary pictures (online)," she said.

London-bound commodity trader Chiam Yan Wen, 27, arrived in Istanbul in transit six hours after the attack and found the airport in chaos.

The Singaporean saw people sitting on the arrival hall floor. More were queuing to get seats on new flights as theirs were cancelled or delayed.

CHAOS: Ms Chiam Yan Wen (above) arrived in Istanbul in transit six hours after the attack and found the airport in chaos. PHOTO COURTESY OF MS CHIAM YAN WEN

The pilot for Ms Chiam's flight had told the passengers about the attacks over the PA system.

"Everyone exchanged looks of confusion when they heard the captain mention a bombing at Ataturk. It was unsettling at first, and the only information we got on the flight was from CNN," she said.

Ataturk Airport was shut down for several hours after the attacks, resulting in flight delays and diversions.

Singapore Airlines (SIA) flight SQ392, bound for Istanbul with 201 passengers and 14 crew members, turned back to Singapore about five hours into the flight.

Singaporean Geraldine Loh, 53, one of the passengers, told TNP: "We were somewhere over India when there was an announcement that Ataturk International Airport was hit by bombs, and that we were turning back."

Ms Loh, who lives in Istanbul, said her mobile phone erupted with hundreds of messages when she turned it on after the plane landed at Changi Airport yesterday.

Her priority was to contact her mother and other loved ones to let them know she was safe.

The rescheduled flight, which took off from Changi at 1.24pm yesterday, was expected to arrive in Istanbul at 7.05pm local time.

Ms Loh, who was in Singapore to attend her class reunion, said that in today's climate, terrorism cannot be ignored.

"It is something we have to live with. As long as we have our antennae up and are watchful, we are able to stay safe," she said.

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) spokesman said yesterday afternoon that most of the registered Singaporeans in Istanbul have been contacted, and are safe.

There have been no reports of any Singaporeans injured or directly affected by the attacks.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim in a letter yesterday: "Singapore strongly condemns this heinous act and stands in solidarity with Turkey in countering this global menace of terrorism."

Meanwhile, security agencies here have stepped up checks and patrols at air, land and sea checkpoints, as well as at key transport nodes following the deadly Istanbul attack, CNA reported reported the Ministry of Home Affairs as saying yesterday.

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