Asia

Lee Kuan Yew: Huge queue to view founder lying in state

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Media captionSingaporeans queued for up to eight hours to see the body of Lee Kuan Yew (Video credit: Ong Wee Jin / The Straits Times)

A huge queue has formed in central Singapore as thousands wait to pay tribute to late statesman Lee Kuan Yew lying in state in parliament.

As of 15:00 local time (07:00 BST), the waiting time was eight hours.

Officials are discouraging people from joining the queue but said the viewing will now be open 24 hours.

Mr Lee, who died on Monday aged 91, was Singapore's prime minister for 31 years and is seen as its founding father. His funeral is on Sunday.

Singapore is observing a week of mourning for his death. The viewing will end on Saturday night and his body will be moved the next day to a cultural centre for the funeral.

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Image caption Many stood in the hot sun, shielding themselves with umbrellas, as they waited to enter Parliament House

Officials said in a statement they were taken aback by the "overwhelming response" from the public. The viewing was meant to end at 20:00 local time but has since been extended twice.

The city's underground train network, the MRT, will also run 24 hours on Wednesday. Many organisations and businesses are giving employees time off to pay their respects.

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Image caption Many brought flowers to pay respects
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Image caption The line snaked along the Singapore River, around the financial district and Boat Quay

The first in line had begun queuing on Tuesday night. By midday, the line was several kilometres long and wound through the heart of the city.

Ivy Chiam, 79, spent four hours lining up with her sister.

"We felt very tired, but we enjoyed it because we were there with all these people sharing the same feelings, talking about the same thing - Lee Kuan Yew," she told the BBC. "Standing in line for so long was nothing compared to what he did for us."

With daytime temperatures above 30C, officials handed out water to those queuing and created a separate line for the elderly, handicapped and pregnant women.

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Media captionA procession carried the coffin of Lee Kuan Yew from his official residence to Parliament House

Mr Lee's body had been resting at the Istana - the official presidential residence - for a private family mourning period. Thousands have already left flowers and message at its gates and signed books of condolence.

Thousands gathered earlier on Wednesday to observe his flag-draped coffin accompanied by representatives of the military and government, as it was carried from the Istana through the main shopping and business districts, before arriving at Parliament House.

The BBC's Tessa Wong says the mood was expectant, even a little festive, along the Bras Basah Road thoroughfare, where hundreds of people - including schoolchildren holding handmade signs stating "RIP Mr Lee" - had gathered by the roadside and on rooftops.

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Image caption A new breed of orchid named after Lee Kuan Yew is displayed by his coffin in Parliament House
Image copyright AP
Image caption Many grieved and offered prayers at Mr Lee's Singapore flag-draped coffin in Parliament House

On Tuesday, Singapore's current prime minster, Mr Lee's son Lee Hsien Loong, thanked all who had paid tribute, via his Facebook page.

He also announced that a new orchid - Singapore's national flower - had been named after his father. The orchid, named Aranda Lee Kuan Yew, is on display at Parliament House.

Global admiration

Lee Kuan Yew - widely known as LKY - oversaw Singapore's independence from Britain and separation from Malaysia and co-founded the People's Action Party (PAP), which has governed Singapore since 1959.

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Image caption Lee Kuan Yew's death sparked an outpouring of grief in the city-state he led to prosperity
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Image caption Thousands have already paid tribute at the Istana

He was the architect of Singapore's transformation from a dependent, port city to a stable, prosperous independent state and a global financial hub.

However, he also introduced tight control. One of his legacies was a clampdown on the press - tight restrictions that remain in place today - while measures such as corporal punishment have been criticised as repressive.

Dissent - and political opponents - were ruthlessly quashed. Today, PAP remains firmly in control. There are currently six opposition lawmakers in parliament.

He was widely admired by world leaders, but criticised what he saw as the overly liberal approach of the US and the West, saying it had "come at the expense of orderly society".

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