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Friday October 25, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Friday October 25, 2013 MYT 10:25:07 AM
by ivan loh, p. aruna, isabelle lai, AND cheryl hew
Debris and rubbish litter the landscape after the flood at Bertam Valley in Ringlet.
PETALING JAYA: The authorities should have known the impact of releasing so much water from the dam and should have done more than just sounding the siren, said Datuk S.K Devamany.
The former Cameron Highlands MP said Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB), together with local authorities, could have done more by immediately engaging Rela or the Civil Defence Department to alert and evacuate the villagers first.
“The water pressure increased due to siltation and heavy rain and they had to release the water. But they should have done more to alert the people. At that hour, people are sleeping and sounding the siren is not enough.
“The authorities should also have known that releasing such a huge amount of water would have an adverse effect,” said Devamany, who is now Perak state assembly speaker, when contacted yesterday.
Water released from the Sultan Abu Bakar hydroelectric dam on Wednesday after the siren was sounded left three people dead, nearly 100 houses destroyed or flooded and over 100 vehicles badly damaged at Bertam Valley in Ringlet.
Thirty-eight people from about 80 families were later placed at the Ringlet community hall.
Devamany said he had held several discussions with TNB on how to tackle a problem such as this during his tenure as Cameron Highlands MP.
“During my time, TNB had plans to dig up the entire river to widen it but the project is on hold due to funding as it would cost RM40mil to do this,” he added.
Residents affected by the mud flood were furious that they were not given ample warning to flee from their homes.
Excavator operator Chew Wah Hon, 37, said water had gushed into his home within “minutes” after the alarm sounded at about midnight on Wednesday.
“Nobody came to tell us to leave our home. The authorities should have done it so we could still save some of our belongings,” he told journalists.
“My car, two motorcycles, furniture are all destroyed.”
Farmer Lee Sek Min, 58, also felt that the dam authorities should have warned the residents through communication.
“It was unexpected. Everyone thought the water level was not dangerous,” he said.
“In 1988, the water level only reached our ankles. This time, it reached our chest.”
SJK(C) Bertam Valley teacher Mohd Faizol Mohamed Nor, 31, questioned why the authorities waited till midnight to release the water despite the heavy downpour beginning at about 7pm on that day.
“I do not know why they chose to wait so long this time, which resulted in the water being released in large amounts and causing so much damage,” he said.
Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah has called for a review of the standard operating procedure regarding the release of water from the Sultan Abu Bakar hydroelectric dam.
“The authorities should sound the siren warning earlier and commence the release of water from the dam before it reaches the critical level,” the Tengku Makhota Pahang said during a visit to the disaster area, accompanied by Pahang Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob on Thursday.
“The authorities can also consider setting up something like a second catchment downstream to act as a safety catch before the waters reach houses along the river.”
Bertam folk count their losses and hope for aid
Tags / Keywords:
Environment, Cameron Highland Dams
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