More landslides in S’wak last month

KUCHING: The abnormally heavy rainfall in southern Sarawak in February caused at least 194 landslides and embankment failures.

Just released statistics show 79 incidents on state roads and two on federal roads over Chinese New Year.

In two more major rain spells between Feb 19 and 27, another 111 landslides and embankment failures occurred on state roads, and two on federal roads.

Works Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof (pic) told reporters yesterday the Puncak Borneo area, comprising mainly Bidayuh settlements and Padawan Ring Road, were most “critical”.

He also said the number of rain-related disasters in February was the most ever for Sarawak “because of the volume of rain”.

“The landslides were mostly small and minor, not the big ones, but whatever it is, we need to treat the problems. We have to do mitigation and repair works. We can’t let these problems get bigger,” Fadillah told reporters after a Malaysian Construction Academy graduation ceremony here.

Cost estimates were not yet available.

“What we have done so far is temporary work, just to clean up. We’ll need to come up with designs to redo whatever needs to be done to prevent future failures,” he added.

Aside from the landslides, 81 sections of state roads and 14 federal roads were also cut off by floods in February.

All affected areas were in Kuching, Serian, Samarahan and Sri Aman, roughly 200km apart.

In last month’s three floods, the second and third episodes were more severe. In the middle of the month, some 8,000 were evacuated at the height of the waters.

In last weekend’s incident, rainfall of over 300mm caused floods at Sarawak General Hospital, state police headquarters and an inner city fire station ­– all built on high ground and which have never been flooded before.

The state capital’s drainage system are designed for 150-180mm of rain, while the average is 90mm.

The Works Minister conceded funds for Sarawak’s flood mitigation projects have not been sufficient over the years.

“As far as Kuching is concerned, flood mitigation studies have been done. It’s a question of implementation, and in implementation, we need the Government to ready the funds,” Fadillah said.

He said mitigation projects had not been built at the same quick pace of infrastructure development like housing and commercial estates.

Meanwhile, according to the Fire and Rescue Department, three flood relief shelters remained open yesterday for 29 families and a total of 74 victims.

All were in Serian. The shelter at Sacred Heart Church has been open since Feb 27.