S'poreans in narrow escape at Vietnam badminton tourney
It was about 7.30pm in Vietnam on Tuesday, and Singaporean Loh Kean Yew was in the middle of his badminton match against Vietnam's Hoang Nam Nguyen.
It was the second day of playoffs in the Yonex Sunrise Vietnam GP Open 2014 at the Phan Dinh Phung Sports Complex in Ho Chi Minh City.
The 17-year-old was trailing 13-15 in the first game when the umpire stopped the match.
When Kean Yew looked around, the players on the adjacent court had also stopped playing.
"They had noticed several small objects falling from the ceiling and we took it as a warning that something was going to happen," he told The New Paper through the team spokesman using Whatsapp.
Fortunately, the players managed to vacate the courts just before a huge section of the ceiling crashed to the floor.
Dust from the debris filled the air and spectators scrambled to safety.
When the ceiling fell, Kean Yew's first thoughts were of his and his teammates' safety.
"I was thinking of running when the ceiling collapsed, but I was also worried for my teammates and my older brother, Kean Hean, and whether he managed to get away safely," he said. He found out later that no one was hurt.
"I feel relieved that they are all safe, especially my brother. He came back to look for me and left with me."
Another Singaporean player, Sean Lee, 20, was watching the matches when he noticed splinters falling from the ceiling.
"It's my first time experiencing such an incident," he told TNP.
"I couldn't believe it happened. I was shocked and scared.
"Never would one have believed that the competition venue ceiling would collapse in the middle of the game."
Vietnam Badminton Federation chairman Nguyen Phuong Nam, who also heads the tournament organising committee, said officials had checked the hall before the tournament but they focused mainly on the lighting and air-conditioning systems, Vietnam news agency Tuoi Tre News reported.
Mr Nguyen's deputy in the organising committee, Mrs Huynh Ngoc Lien, confirmed there were no injuries, another local news agency Thanh Nien News reported.
She said: "This was a very serious incident at an international event. We did not take the risk of asking them to return to the stadium after that."
The tournament was moved to Tan Binh Sports Centre.
Mr Chua Yong Joo, the Singapore team's director of performance, said this was the first time they had encountered such an incident.
"The safety of our players remain our highest priority and we will work closely with the Badminton World Federation to further reinforce this point."
For Kean Yew, the incident may have been a blessing in disguise.
Though he lost the first game 14-21 and was trailing 6-10 in the second, he fought back to win it 21-14 and took the rubber 21-15.
"I was given the chance to restrategise before I played with my opponent again and I'm happy that I won," he said.
"They had noticed several small objects falling from the ceiling and we took it as a warning that something was going to happen."
- Singaporean badminton player Loh Kean Yew