Bracing for bad weather

Malaysian Civil Defence Force Penang director Lt Kol Q’bert John Martin Quadra (front right) inspecting the boats and floating equipment.

IT has been wet, wet, wet for the past few days but the emergency response teams in Penang are all geared up to face flash floods and landslides during the current wet season.

Penang environment and welfare committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said they were on full alert in tackling any possible worst-case scenario arising from the wet spell.

“All the relevant agencies and frontliners involved have been put on standby since a week ago as we are bracing for extreme weather changes.

“The community halls-turned-evacuation centres are all ready to be used.

“The halls which come under the district offices were identified by the Village Community Management Councils.

“We cleaned the halls, and made sure they are in liveable condition and the electricity is working, ” he said, adding that each centre would accommodate fewer people in view of the new normal.

Workers placing tarpaulin sheets over the slope where the boulder had rolled down and damaged the metal railings in Penang Hill.Workers placing tarpaulin sheets over the slope where the boulder had rolled down and damaged the metal railings in Penang Hill.

Malaysian Civil Defence Force Penang operation officer Kapt Muhammad Aizat Abd Ghani said they have 25 boats, eight lorries and 14 ambulances at their disposal in the event of any eventuality.

“We have identified several areas in the state which are considered hotspots for floods but there are also other factors that need to be taken into consideration.

“It has been raining daily but the situation was not too bad as it was not downpour.

“Consistent rain like this actually helps to wash out rubbish in the drains and fill up dams.

“We are all on standby either way to make sure any flood is handled swiftly, ” he said.

Penang Hill Corporation general manager Datuk Cheok Lay Leng said a large boulder, with a 1.5m diameter, rolled down a slope before coming to a halt near the playground in Penang Hill on Wednesday.

“The boulder destroyed the metal railing along the way.

“Our staff members have covered the landslide area with tarpaulin sheets to prevent further erosion, ” he said.

The boulder coming to rest on a path after rolling down a slope in Penang Hill on Wednesday during heavy rain.The boulder coming to rest on a path after rolling down a slope in Penang Hill on Wednesday during heavy rain.

“Once the weather is a bit stable, we will conduct major inspections to identify areas with big boulders or possible landslides, ” he said.

Penang infrastructure committee chairman Zairil Khir Johari said they had allocated RM2.4mil for emergency works, including dredging and cleaning of monsoon drains and culverts.

“We have also allocated an additional RM800,000 for the maintenance of pump houses and mobile pumps, ” he said.

Since 2016, Penang has been severely struck by monsoon rains, landslides and flash floods in October and November.

A major landslide near the Tropical Spice Garden cut off access to Teluk Bahang after five hours of rain in November 2016.

In October 2017, a temporary slope at the construction site of a high-rise apartment block in Tanjung Bungah collapsed, killing 11 workers.

On Nov 4,2017, Penang was hit by a series of floods that caused landslides and uprooted over 100 trees. Roads were closed down and there was damage to homes, vehicles, public property and infrastructures.

The disaster, touted as the worst in 30 years, claimed seven lives and forced over 3,500 people to be evacuated as the state was inundated by up to 4m of water after the 18-hour storm.

At Penang Hill, it was reported that over 300 landslides occurred in 2017.

In October 2018, a landslide caused 12 containers on a slope to crash down and kill nine foreign workers.

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