leekuanyew

Crowds queue overnight to pay their last respects

On any other week, the streets of the Central Business District would have been empty after midnight.

But in the early hours yesterday morning, it was abuzz with thousands of people making the most of the extended 24-hour entry into Parliament House to pay their last respects to Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

Already, from morning until midnight on Wednesday, a total of 59,420 visitors had passed through.

As night became day, the stream of people joining the designated lines stretching for kilometres around the Padang or at Hong Lim Park never let up.

At 1am, the crowd was mostly younger people arriving after work. Several senior citizens also gamely waited in line with their families, rather than joining the priority pioneer queue.

One mourner, Mr Veerakan Aran, 45, who works in estate management, came at night as he was unable to get time off in the day. "To see Mr Lee, going a day without sleep should be fine. He was a great leader and I'm not going to be able to see him again if I miss this opportunity."

The lying in state ends at 8pm tomorrow.

The estimated waiting time as of 12.30am yesterday was about three hours, but this shortened to one or two hours by 2am.

At Hong Lim Park, politicians, including Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu and Manpower Minister Tan Chuan- Jin, chatted separately with those waiting in line.

Over at the Padang, as 4am approached, students in uniform joined the line on the perimeter, while on the Padang field itself, squads of military personnel worked tirelessly to set up crowd control barriers in preparation for the day ahead.

Primary school pupils were accompanied by parents in office attire.

Organisers had announced that queueing would start at the Padang from 7am yesterday, and just before 5.30am, crowds were directed there.

By then, barriers topped with black tents - to provide shelter - had been set up in a zig-zag formation for queueing.

And another day of mourning began anew.

charyong@sph.com.sg