Singaporeans are grieving and world leaders paying tribute as the Southeast Asian city-state mourns the death of its founding father Lee Kuan Yew.

The government announced that Lee, 91, "passed away peacefully" early Monday at a Singapore hospital. An increasingly frail Lee was hospitalized in early February with severe pneumonia.

State television broke away from regular programming with a hagiographic tribute to Lee's life, calling his death the "awful and dreaded" news.

He is credited with transforming the resource poor island into a wealthy bustling financial hub with low crime and almost zero corruption.

President Barack Obama has called Lee a "visionary" in a statement.

Sayeed Hussain, 53, says Lee was a "great hero" to Singaporeans as he paid respects at the hospital where Lee died.