TL;DR – White powder only what… or not?
Not too long ago, an unattended bag caused Hougang MRT station to be temporarily closed. On Tuesday (18 April 2017), another MRT station was closed after suspicious substance sparked a security incident. At about 1pm, assistant station manager Mailyn B Carriaga spotted white powder in four places around Woodleigh station. Fortunately, the white substance was found to be baking flour.
Some people may ask, “White powder only what. What’s the big deal? Scared for what?” Of course there is a good reason to be cautious.
We explain why and also share two other things that you probably don’t know about the Woodleigh MRT station closure.
1. Why the big deal about white powder?
In 2001, just one week after the September 11 attack, letters containing anthrax spores, which looked like white powder, were mailed to several news media offices and two Democratic U.S. Senators. What are anthrax spores? Why are they so dangerous?
Anthrax spores are spores of the Bacillus anthracis bacteria. It can cause infection of the skin, lungs and gastrointestinal tract. Anthrax infection of the skin looks like this:
Without treatment, about 20% of people who suffer from skin infection by anthrax spores die. Scary as that seems, it’s not the worst problem caused by anthrax spores. The worst damage that can be done by anthrax spores is that it can infect lungs. 85% of people who suffer from lung infections by anthrax spore die.
In the attacks in USA in 2001, five people were killed, 17 others were infected. So do you still think that we shouldn’t be worried about white powder left lying around?
2. Who are the people who left these white powder?
No, no, no.
Not Han Hui Hui.
The Hash House Harriers (abbreviated to HHH or H3) is an international group of non-competitive running social clubs. An event organized by a club is known as a hash, hash run or simply hashing, with participants calling themselves hashers or hares and hounds.
According to Wikipedia, hashing originated in December 1938 in Selayang Quarry, Selangor, then in the Federated Malay States (now Malaysia), when a group of British colonial officers and expatriates began meeting on Monday evenings to run, in a fashion patterned after the traditional British paper chase or “hare and hounds”. In other words, a hash run is like a very elaborate game of catching.
Typically, at each hash run one or more members (“hares”) lay a trail, which is then followed by the remainder of the group (the “pack” or “hounds”). Sawdust, flour, chalk, and toilet paper are used to mark the trail. The trail periodically ends at a “check” and the pack must find where it begins again; often the trail includes false trails, short cuts, dead ends, back checks, and splits.
The flour that was left around Woodleigh MRT station was apparently left by the “hare” of one of the HHH running clubs Singapore to mark the trail of their next hash run.
Pro-Tip! In many parts of the world, the Hash House Harriers can also be refered to as the drinking club with a drinking problem. Beer features very, very and we mean really very prominently in these HHH running clubs. They typically also have a place they go to after each run. For beer, what else!
3. Is Hash house Harriers Singapore (HHHS) a new thing?
No. HHHS was founded in 1962! That makes HHHS older than Singapore. They certainly aren’t a fly-by-night outfit or some new hipster activity. They even have a committee! They also have rules on marking trails in NParks territory. Those rules include this:
Use toilet paper only. Absolutely no chalk and no flour.
A very sensible rule. Anyone with some common sense would extrapolate from that rule that if chalk and flour can’t be used at NParks territory, then all the more chalk and flour shouldn’t be used near MRT stations. But apparently common sense isn’t that common after all.
Anyway, there are different variants or branches or whatever you might call it of the HHH in Singapore. The men who are currently under investigation for the Woodleigh MRT station incident are from Seletar Hash House Harriers, which has been around since June 1980. From their website, we can tell that it’s a fairly active group.
Oh, one more thing we’ve learnt from their site is to call out “On On!” when white powder or what they call hashmark is spotted!
Certainly good to exercise, but be sensible about it
Hash runs seem like a really fun way to get people to exercise. MOH probably is quite happy that people are running and exercising. That’s certainly going to help in the war against diabetes. But don’t do stupid things like leaving white powder lying around high-traffic public spaces, can?
– Editor’s Update –
The people from Seletar Hash House Harriers have apologised.