PENANG: Incessant rain and strong winds which lashed Penang, Kedah and northern Perak in the past three days have caused widespread havoc on the island and the mainland, with one young life lost in the floodwaters.
At least six domestic and international flights were diverted from the Bayan Lepas International Airport while ferry services were stopped and north-bound train services interrupted.
Heavy rains caused boulders to be dislodged from hillslopes and trees to be uprooted along several roads.
The downpour and winds, however, failed to cause a damper on the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace (Lima) 2003 show, which entered its fifth day.
But the storms cut short the aerial displays and prevented people from visiting ships, which were docked at Awana Porto Malai, as the smaller boats were unable to ferry visitors due to the choppy seas.
By coincidence, the rough weather came at a time when the Chinese community was preparing for the annual procession of the Nine Emperor Gods Festival, where devotees go on a strict vegetarian diet for nine days.
Their belief is that the streets would be washed clean for the gods to pass through on the ninth day, which was yesterday.
A Penang Meteorological Services Department spokesman said 99mm of rainfall was recorded yesterday, adding that heavy rain was expected to continue today.
In Seberang Perai Selatan, an eight-year-old boy was feared drowned in Sungai Chempedak. Mohd Saharul Omar from Kampung Tasek Chempedak, near Tasek in Simpang Ampat, was last seen playing near the river at 3pm on Friday.
Nibong Tebal fire officer Abd Khadir Awang said a search and rescue team, with 20 men in two boats, was immediately rushed to comb the area where the boy was reportedly drowned.
At press time, his body had yet to be found.
As at 6pm 488 people in Butterworth had been relocated to relief centres in the Seberang Perai Utara and Seberang Perai Tengah districts.
In Bandar Baru Air Itam, a four-year-old boy had a close shave with death when the retaining wall behind his house crashed into his bedroom at 11am.
Fortunately, Mohd Zahid escaped unhurt as he was playing in the living room at the time.
Mohd Zahid's father Imran Abdul, 39, said the retaining wall was on the verge of collapsing for the past four months.
In the same area, a RM740,000 double-storey semi-detached house was damaged when a landslip brought down a huge boulder into the side of the building.
Owner Abdul Hamid, 65, said the landslip, due to heavy rain, destroyed a bedroom on the lower floor, in which his wife and their four grandchildren usually slept.
Thankfully, none of the 10 occupants, including himself, was at home during the incident, he told reporters at the scene.
In Jalan Thean Teik, part of the concrete props supporting a bridge for use by pedestrians and motorcyclists also gave way and had to be closed to traffic.
At Swettenham Pier, about 300 people were stranded
when ferry services to Langkawi were suspended yesterday due to the bad weather.
A spokesman from Fast Ferry Ventures Sdn Bhd said three ferries which departed from Penang yesterday morning had to turn back when the weather turned bad halfway into the journey.
Malaysia Airports Bhd (Penang) duty manager Azmi Darus said two flights from Medan, one from Taipei and three from Kuala Lumpur were affected due to poor visibility.
“Because of the bad weather, the flights had to be diverted to the KL International Airport instead,” he said.
Near Balik Pulau, Jalan Tun Sardon was still closed to traffic after huge boulders had crashed there on Thursday, cutting off the link between the district and Bayan Lepas.
Contractor Abdul Rahman Ahmad from Syarikat Alma Sdn Bhd said about 50 workers were working round-the-clock to clear the roads and hill slopes there.
In Kedah, a total of 1,444 people were evacuated after floods hit the Yan and Kuala Muda districts over the last two days.
State Secretary Datuk Wira Ku Nahar Ku Ibrahim said the victims were moved to 13 relief centres in the two districts.
He said flood levels in the two areas were between one and two metres high.
He said those who wanted flood-related details should call 04-730 2353.
Kulim's Kampung Paya Tok Betuk in Sungai Ular recorded its first evacuees as eight families, comprising 80 people, had to be relocated due to flood waters as high as 1.5m.
Some 400 houses in Kulim town were flooded between 0.8m to 1m but Kulim OCPD Supt Mohamed Salleh Mad Rasid said no one had been relocated.
In Perak, the Sungai Bayu broke its banks and flooded several villages in Selama, Taiping, by up to 2m.
An elderly man who was trapped in one of the villages by the flood was rescued and moved to safety, a Selama Fire and Rescue Department spokesman said.
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