GEORGE TOWN: Many Malaysians had a small taste of how ravaging a tropical storm can be when the tailwind of Typhoon Doksuri, now lashing Vietnam, swept across the north of the peninsula.
Kedah, Perlis and Penang were hit by the downpour that the tailwind brought, which lasted from Thursday night until yesterday evening.
There was massive flooding, landslides, the possible death of a woman motorcyclist and widespread pandemonium in Penang.
Factory worker Noor Afidah Yajunas, 30, is feared to have drowned after she tried to ride her motorcycle across water gushing onto the road from a hillside and was washed into a ravine along Jalan Paya Terubong near Relau.
Witnesses saw her being swept into a culvert.
“We couldn’t do anything because the current was so powerful,” said another motorcyclist, V. Ramakrishnan, 57.
He said the road had “become a swift-flowing river”.
To their horror, Noor Afidah was carried underground as the culvert went downhill from there.
“It was terrible. I saw her arms flailing above the water for a few seconds before she was swept in,” Ramakrishnan said.
At press time, firemen were still searching for her. Her mother Adisah Jadidi, 66, arrived at the scene at about 11.30am.
At the Kayangan Puri Mutiara Apartments off Medan Fettes, six cars belonging to residents, parked beside a retaining wall, were buried under tonnes of mud and water at about 6.30am.
Another five cars parked nearby were crushed by the crown of an uprooted tree in the landslide.
One of the car owners, known only as Lim, said his apartment was nearby and that he had heard the sounds of falling trees and collapsing earth.
He did not realise what the sounds were at first because they were muffled by the noise of the downpour.
“Then I saw muddy water gushing down like a waterfall from the hill slope. At first, I could still see my car but as the water brought more earth down, my car was completely buried.
“Our apartments were built in 1993 and there was never any sign that the hill slope above us was unstable,” Lim said.
But Kebun Bunga assemblyman Cheah Kah Peng, who was at the scene, recalled a “waterfall gushing down from the hill” whenever it rained several years ago.
He said there was a uphill road called Puncak Bukit Mutiara 2 and it was possible that a blockage in the storm drain beside the road had made the water collect and overflow, weakening the soil.
The worst hit areas were Bandar Baru Ayer Itam and Paya Terubong, where nearly two thirds of the island’s north-east district population live.
Nearly 250,000 residents were cut off from the rest of the island as the three main roads – Jalan Paya Terubong, Jalan Air Itam and Lebuhraya Thean Tek – were flooded, making them impossible to pass.
The low-lying areas of Jalan P. Ramlee, Jalan Terengganu, Jalan Perak and Jalan Air Itam near the state mosque were also badly hit.
The rain gauge at Air Itam Dam recorded 270mm between 5am and 9am yesterday, which is the average amount recorded in a month.
The Teluk Bahang station recorded 175mm while it was 198mm at the Sungai Pinang station, with other parts of Penang recording about 100mm, these being the highest ever for those areas.
State Local Government Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said additional flood mitigation projects would take between two and three years to complete, “and even that would only alleviate the problem to a certain extent” if it kept raining like this.
He said floods were reported in 48 locations on the island, 12 in North Seberang Prai, 123 in Central Seberang Prai and four in South Seberang Prai.