Deputy CM says severe flooding not likely but all must stay alert

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Be extra careful: State Secretary Tan Sri Mohamad Morshidi Abdul Ghani (left) and Jabu speaking to reporters after the National Security Council briefing.

KUCHING: Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Alfred Jabu Numpang says Sarawak is “not likely” to face severe flooding this monsoon season to last until March.

After a National Security Council briefing here yesterday, the state Disaster Relief Committee chairman told reporters Sarawak should be spared from the kind of floods that had hit Peninsular Malaysia unless there was a “change in the weather pattern”.

Nonetheless, he said, the relief committee would be operating everyday from Wisma Bapa here until the monsoon season was over. Jabu, who has come under criticism in the past for his handling of floods and a helicopter crash, assured that the media would be updated constantly.

“We will alert you. This centre is opened 24 hours, ground floor. We’ll alert you if (there is) any change or any likelihood (of floods) ... which we are monitoring with the Meteorological Department (MET),” he said.

Jabu said additional relief measures were being planned like 50 more life jackets for each of 31 districts in the state, getting the help of Sabah’s army if floods occurred in Lawas and more direct communication with residents in low-lying areas.

“We are advising residents in areas that always get hit by floods that they have to be extra careful. People don’t always want to move, some still want to stay put, but they must be very conscious on their part. Nothing much you can do sometimes but we will work with them.”

As of now, authorities have ready more than 600 evacuation centres (mostly community halls and schools that are located on higher ground), which in total can accommodate more than 200,000 people.

Food stock centres (called forward bases) are fully stocked, while 180 additional food suppliers at nearby areas have also been contracted for the period.

The southern part of the state would likely receive more rain than the north. “Areas below from Sibu and below will get more rain,” Jabu said.

MET has forecast an “average” monsoon season for Sarawak, meaning there should be more than 20 rainy days this January and with accumulated monthly rainfall to range from 240mm to 850mm.

Kuching should receive between 500mm and 850mm rainfall this month, compared with just 240mm-360mm in Miri.

The security council briefing yesterday was a request by elected representatives from the state.

In a related development, Sarawak DAP announced all its elected representatives would be donating an extra RM1,000 each to a disaster fund for flood-hit states in Peninsular Malaysia. “We also want to encourage Sarawakians to donate to their counterparts in the west,” said state DAP chief Chong Chieng Jen, who is Bandar Kuching MP and Kota Sentosa assemblyman.

“In some places at present houses have been totally washed away. The rebuilding of the villages will take lots of funds,” he added.

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