A Postcard from Singapore IV – Face-to-face with the ‘exTerminator’

October 1, 2007

After testing numerous Mooncakes I have come to the conclusion that most are delicious. The Black Forest Cherry Mooncake is a cracker, but I actually prefer the “original” style. Despite the immense number of calories I have consumed the process of sampling  mooncakes all over the place has been very enjoyable, particularly since my colleagues have taken to ensuring there are always fresh mooncakes around when I arrive at the office.

This week’s Tuesday afternoonshift was very busy with the top story being the protests in Myanmar (see previous blogs).  In addition to hard news pictures, the Singapore desk sees many other interesting images from around the world – sometimes just nice to look at, sometimes real eye-catchers.

Here are a few from that afternoon shift.


1. Britain’s Foreign Secretary David Miliband listens to speeches during the annual Labour Party conference by Dylan Martinez, proving that although party conferences may be boring there is no reason why the pictures need to be. 

2. In the Siberian city of Barnaul, Andrey Kasprishin pictures an enormous baby girl Nadia (L), who weighed 7.75 kg (17.1 lbs) at birth.

3. With his image from the FIFA Women’s World Cup in China of an excited Anja Mittag talking on the on the telephone after Germany beat Norway, Alfred Cheng Jin shows us that a good soccer picture does not always need a ball in it. 

4. Max Rossi’s impression of the Roberto Cavalli Spring/Summer 2008 women’s collection from Milan is pure eye candy.

By the handover to the next shift at 2300 our team of Avantika, Deurborn, Janice, Kirk, Shilpa, Stanley and Yuen Hua had edited and moved more than 500 pictures to clients worldwide – a busy shift.

The following morning with those Mooncake calories in mind and needing to wind-down a little, I set off for the gym. As I was about to leave the apartment I became aware of a loud noise close by. I’d heard the noise in the distance before and sometimes noticed a wisp of smoke without paying much attention to it but at this range it was impossible to ignore. The noise became steadily louder, then out of a cloud of smoke a figure in a yellow mask appeared – I was face-to-face with the ExTerminator! He was walking from house to house, wreathed in billowing white clouds equipped with his portable “fogger” generating huge quantities of smoke and leaving behind a stink like diesel exhaust.

Once back in the office I learned from colleagues that in Singapore this kind of encounter is a regular occurrence. These ‘fog men’ are an essential aspect of life in residential areas, where their weekly visits help eliminate disease-carrying mosquitos in an attempt to control Dengue fever.


From the internet I learned that Dengue fever is transmitted to humans by the mosquito Aedes aegypti. Aedes aegypti, commonly known as the yellow fever mosquito, can host the dengue fever, Chikungunya and yellow fever viruses – and other diseases as well. The virus can cause flu-like symptoms of fever, severe headache, joint and muscular pains, vomiting, diarrhoea and rashes. There is no commercially avaialable vaccine for dengue.

Unlike malaria-transmitting mosquitoes that stick to rural areas and swampy waters, it prefers clean and fresh water. It breeds largely indoors, needing only tiny pools of water to lay its eggs. Under optimal conditions, the egg of an Aedes mosquito can hatch into a larva in less than a day. The larva then takes about four days to develop into a pupa, from which an adult mosquito will emerge after two days. Three days after the mosquito has bitten a person and taken in blood, it will lay eggs, and the cycle begins again.

In 2005, there were more than 13,000 cases of Dengue fever cases in Singapore from which 19 people died. The outbreak peaked in September and October, when it caused hospitals to cancel some surgery due to the need to allocate more beds for dengue patients. Singapore responded with public awareness campains and regular “fogging”.

 exTerminator II

Beside a lot of noise and smoke it made some interesting pictures of an aspect of life in Singapore of which I had been completely unaware and will hopefully have been of interest to Reuters readers elsewhere. 

One thing is certain, like the exTerminator, I’ll be back. 

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The foggers terrified me initially when I first got my (sadly expired) job in Singapore. It looked like the smoke of a forest fire rolling in, with a worse smell.I hope you were able to get a photographer to Singapore’s Chinese Garden for the lantern festival. I was never able to get my camera and a tripod together for the event, and they had amazing lantern spectacles.

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