Ready for the worst of monsoon


Sungai Pinang looking cleaner after being cleared of floating rubbish. – Photos by LIM BENG TATT/The Star

WITH more rain expected over the coming months in Penang due to the northeast monsoon, both local councils are ramping up preparations to face any eventualities.

On the Penang mainland, the Seberang Prai City Council (MBSP) will continuously carry out general cleaning to ensure that monsoon drains and other irrigation networks will not be clogged during the upcoming wet season.

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MBSP mayor Datuk Azhar Arshad said the general cleaning works, covering state and city roads, were carried out by appointed contractors.

He said one of the common causes of flash floods was rubbish and debris clogging up drains.

“Our short-term solution is to clean drains and ditches once a week on normal roads, as well as once a day on main roads and twice a day on commercial roads,” he said.

Early preparation: A worker collecting trash trapped at the log boom barrier installed in Sungai Pinang in Penang. — ZHAFARAN NASIB/The StarEarly preparation: A worker collecting trash trapped at the log boom barrier installed in Sungai Pinang in Penang. — ZHAFARAN NASIB/The Star

Azhar said regular sediment removal work would also be carried out.

“We will clear sediment, soil and silt from drains that are less than 1.2m deep.

“However, the frequency will also depend on the current condition of the monsoon drains which will be monitored weekly.

“We are being extra diligent as proper unclogging of drains will allow excess water to flow smoothly even during heavy rain,” he said.

A pile of rubbish trapped along Sungai Pinang.A pile of rubbish trapped along Sungai Pinang.

Meanwhile, a Penang Island City Council (MBPP) spokesman said the council had allocated RM2.07mil for flood mitigation and drainage maintenance in 2022 and the amount would be raised to RM2.86mil in its 2023 budget.

“About RM24mil will be spent this year on area cleaning including waste collection services.

“Those are year-round activities in areas under MBPP’s jurisdiction.

Authorities will be keeping an eye on hotspots like low-lying Jalan Terengganu which was flooded earlier this year. – FilepicAuthorities will be keeping an eye on hotspots like low-lying Jalan Terengganu which was flooded earlier this year. – Filepic

“We will also give special attention to flood-prone hotspots,” said the spokesman.

He said MBPP had started conducting extra cleaning ahead of the wet season.

“Cleaning of the drainage systems located on the main roads are carried out every day while the drains in residential areas are cleaned three times a week,” he added.

MBPP workers cleaning a drain near Pulau Tikus market and clearing floating rubbish (below) in a monsoon drain in flood-prone Jalan P. Ramlee. – FilepicMBPP workers cleaning a drain near Pulau Tikus market and clearing floating rubbish (below) in a monsoon drain in flood-prone Jalan P. Ramlee. – Filepic

It was reported that the Penang government had also appointed focal persons in every district to coordinate steps to be taken in emergencies.

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow had said three-man teams would be formed from land and district offices and other agencies, adding that the Village Community Management Councils, non- governmental organisations and emergency response teams were all prepared for emergencies.

The Fire and Rescue Services Department is also geared up to face the northeast monsoon, working closely with MBPP and the district disaster council.

Jalan Perak Fire and Rescue chief A’azelan Hassan was reported as saying the team had identified 24 flood hotspots within its jurisdiction, among them the low-lying Jalan P. Ramlee.

Weather experts have issued warnings on the ongoing La Nina and also the Indian Ocean Dipole phenomena (difference in sea surface temperature between two poles).

Climate expert Prof Datuk Dr Azizan Abu Samah from Universiti Malaya said the two phenomena caused the weather in Malaysia to be ripe for rain during the northeast monsoon season which is expected to begin in November and be at its peak in December.

Fire and Rescue Services Department director-general Datuk Seri Mohammad Hamdan Wahid reportedly said some 14,800 personnel had been directed to be on high alert during La Nina, adding that this figure did not include the 13,500 volunteer firefighters nationwide who were on standby.

He had also said that for the peninsula, three Regional Front Bases could be activated any time — in Penang for the northern region, in Ayer Hitam, Johor, for the southern region and in Wakaf Tapai in Terengganu for the east coast region.

Penang flood mitigation committee chairman Zairil Khir Johari said the Drainage and Irrigation Department had formed a flood squad which consisted of 131 staff members across five districts to patrol flood-prone areas during the monsoon season.

A new pump house near Sungai Juru in Seberang Prai is part of the state’s flood mitigation efforts. Nearly RM2mil has been allocated to upkeep pump houses and tidal control gates. – FilepicA new pump house near Sungai Juru in Seberang Prai is part of the state’s flood mitigation efforts. Nearly RM2mil has been allocated to upkeep pump houses and tidal control gates. – Filepic

“The state government has allocated RM8.8mil to maintain rivers and waterways; RM2.2mil for river dredging and maintenance of retention ponds and RM1.9mil to upkeep pump houses and tidal control gates.

“A total of RM695,000 was allocated for maintenance of flood sirens and hydrological stations including water level sensors.

“We also have 15 mobile pumps ready to be deployed when required,” said Zairil.

On Sept 12, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob instructed the disaster management committees at the district level to be immediately activated to face the northeast monsoon.

He said this following the Meteorological Department’s (MetMalaysia) forecast that the northeast monsoon would last from November to March 2023.

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