AUTOMATIC early warning systems will soon be installed at four waterfalls in Negri Sembilan to ensure that picnickers will be able to evacuate to safety in the event of sudden surges of water.
Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan said the automatic system would be the first in the country and if it was successful, might serve as a model for other waterfalls in the country.
The system designed by consultants with input from the state Forestry Department will be installed at the Ulu Bendol, Jeram Tengkek, Jeram Toi and Lata Kijang waterfalls within the next two months.
“An early warning system is essential as heavy rain upstream can cause sudden surges of water which may endanger lives.
“Besides the automatic system, the waterfalls will also have a manual alarm which will be sounded by park employees when there is heavy rainfall upstream,” he said after testing the manual early warning system at Ulu Bendol recently.
The automatic system employs a rod-type sensor which would be suspended by cables about 0.3m above the water surface 2km upstream from the base of the falls.
In the event of heavy rainfall upstream, an alarm will be automatically triggered when the water touches the rod.
Mohamad said based on the estimated velocity of water during heavy rain, picnikers usually only have several minutes to get to safer ground before the water rushed downstream.
“That is why an early warning system is necessary to give people time to get out. Siren lights will also be placed at four points along the river to ensure that people can see it if they cannot hear the alarm.
“As an added precaution, basic safety gear such as floats and ropes will also be placed in boxes at those points,” he said.
The department has also put up signboards at places deemed unsafe for bathing to caution visitors.
Mohamad said the initiatives were taken following a tragedy in May when three sisters were swept away when they were bathing at the waterfall.
The incident occurred after a sudden surge of water with debris such as tree trunks and rocks washed down during heavy rain upstream.
It was believed that the father of the young girls who was in the water with them and onlookers were unable to reach the victims fast enough as the current was strong.
Mohamad said there was a drastic decrease in the number of visitors to the waterfall and popular picnic spots after the accident and hoped that things would return to normal with the additional safety features.
“Of course it is not safe to bathe in the river during heavy rain and we hope a tragedy like that will not recur once the new system is put in plac,” he said.
The new safety measures were made possible with a RM500,000 allocation from the Tourism Ministry.