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Singapore shuttlers unscathed in Vietnam badminton hall ceiling collapse

Players at Ho Chi Minh tournament had walked off court moments before the roof caved in.

SINGAPORE: Loh Kean Yew was thanking his lucky stars on Tuesday (Sep 2), after the Singapore national badminton player escaped unscathed after a section of ceiling at the Phan Dinh Phung Stadium in Ho Chi Minh City fell.

The 17-year-old was playing his first-round match against Vietnam’s Nguyen Hoang Nam in the Badminton World Federation (BWF) Grand Prix tournament when the umpire stopped play to alert both players to the impending danger.

Players on the next court had walked off after bits of the ceiling sprinkled down and cracking sounds were heard.

Moments later, a large section of the ceiling came crashing down.

“I was at Court 1, the middle court,” Kean Yew told TODAY. “The Court 2 players had stopped playing after fragments fell from the ceiling, so we took it as a warning that something was going to happen.”

A video taken by Kean Yew’s team-mate Terry Hee, which went viral on social media, showed a crack in the ceiling widening before an entire section fell, raising a cloud of dust and leaving a debris field covering a large portion of two badminton courts.

Ronald Susilo, one of 12 Singapore players at the tournament, witnessed the entire incident.

“We looked at the ceiling (after the cracking sound started) and it didn’t take long before it fell. Luckily, it was only one section and not the whole building collapsing, or a lot of people would be hurt,” said Susilo, who was in the stands about 30m away when it happened.

“We’ve dealt with water dripping down from the stadium roof, and it’s quite normal for a stadium to be draughty, but I’ve never seen this happening before.”

BWF events manager Venu Mahalingam said the world body is investigating the incident and awaiting a report from the organisers, the Ho Chi Minh City Badminton Association. The tournament was moved to the Tan Binh Sports Center, which hosted the 2003 SEA Games badminton competition.

“There were no withdrawals or complaints. Everybody has been supportive. I’m very happy with the new venue and cannot believe the situation was turned around so quickly,” said tournament referee Julie Carrel in a statement on the BWF website.

On Wednesday, Kean Yew wrapped up a 14-21, 21-14, 21-15 win over Nguyen, while Susilo lost a tight three-setter to Andre Kurniawan Tedjono.

The tournament wraps up on Sunday.