WHEN Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi visited flood relief centres in Kepala Batas and Tasik Glugor yesterday, a convoy of 40 cars followed him wherever he went.
The long queue of vehicles escorting the Deputy Prime Minister’s entourage prompted him to remark: “Tak payah kerja? (No need to work?)”
And rightly so, especially when there is so much work to do in co-ordinating evacuation efforts as well as distributing foodstuff and blankets to the rising number of victims.
What probably irked Pak Lah was the fact that those in the convoy included smartly dressed politicians and election hopefuls who wanted to show that they were working and to be photographed with the future Prime Minister.
But after realising that it would be a long haul, most of the politicians did not get out of their cars for fear of getting their leather shoes wet.
And Abdullah did set a punishing pace, covering 12 relief centres in four hours, offering foodstuff, comforting words and reassurances to the victims.
After all, the flood situation remained critical late yesterday with about 13,000 evacuees in Seberang Prai Utara alone, the worst hit in Penang, and the Muda River overflowing its banks.
In any case, there are lessons, and costly ones too, to be learnt from the widespread flooding, which hit the northern states following incessant rain over the past few days.
While it is easy to blame the weather for the floods and landslides which had claimed three lives so far, the authorities must also take the rap for the delay in opening five of the six tidal gates and installation of six pumps in George Town.
It is indeed hard to accept that poor co-ordination had delayed the opening of the tidal gates while technical glitches had caused a 12-month setback in the pumps’ installation for a flood mitigation project.
There must be greater urgency in speeding up flood mitigation projects in George Town and Seberang Prai if the authorities are serious in containing the problem.
Sadly, the tidak apa (apathetic) attitude of certain government agencies has resulted in the never-ending flood woes faced by the people, year after year.
The public, especially hawkers, must also play their part by discarding the habit of throwing rubbish into drains, rivers or roads, which will eventually choke up the waterways and cause floods.
For instance, the local authorities must come down hard on hawkers and market traders who take the easy way out by pouring leftover food and unwanted items into drains.
As for hillslope development, there should be strict monitoring of hill-cutting to prevent landslides, as the hills act as sponges which absorb rainwater after a downpour.
On a brighter note, about 100 volunteers came forward to help distribute food to 50 families stranded in their houses, a testimony of the Malaysia Boleh spirit whenever an emergency situation arises.
Perhaps this goes to show that if the authorities and the people were to put their heart and soul into whatever they set out to do, anything can be accomplished. So, let’s hope that Malaysians will learn their lesson.
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