GEORGE TOWN: When the storm hit, everyone in the north prayed it would soon blow over.
Instead, things just got worse as the storm grew into a tempest, leaving Penangites and Kedahans reeling from floods the likes of which they had never seen in recent times.
By the time the floodwaters receded, seven people were dead, damage to property was in the millions, public transport came to a standstill, water and electricity were cut off in many parts and the army had to be called in to help bring the region back to normal-cy.
Until early this morning, people were still counting the damage to their cars and homes, and fearing the worst as the Meteorological Department has warned of more rain to come.
Floodwaters were up to 3m high in mainland Penang following the storm that started on Saturday afternoon and ended yesterday morning.
A newly built hillside road collapsed in Tanjung Bungah at 1.40am, taking with it parts of yet-to-be-occupied luxury houses.
Residents of two condominium towers next to Persiaran Tanjung Bungah 3 watched the road turn into a massive sinkhole and grow until the steel retaining wall below the road bulged and muddy earth spilled out from below it.
On seeing the earth fall towards their homes, many of the residents fled at about 4am.
The Star’s advertising sales support executive Mabel Chua was chest-deep in murky waters at her home in George Town at 1am with her elderly mother and relatives.
Rescuers, having to respond to hundreds of distress calls, only reached them at 5am.
While Chua’s elderly folk were saved, three other senior citizens drowned in their homes not far away.
At press time, the total death toll reported by police stood at seven, including a Myanmar worker crushed to death when a tree fell on his house in Butterworth on Saturday night.
The sea added its own ferocity to the devastation.
Raging waves heaved the 440-tonne Pulau Pinang ferry up to the dock at 2am.
Several floating fish farms, visible from the second Penang bridge, were obliterated by the storm and hundreds of tonnes of prized grouper fish escaped.
Many roads on the island were cut off, including in Paya Terubong, in George Town near the Penang Sports Club and Jalan Datuk Keramat leading to Komtar in Penang Road.
The perennially flooded Jalan P. Ramlee was badly hit again, with the pitch at the City Stadium also under water.
The people of Seberang Prai suffered the worst.
The underpass near the Seberang Jaya roundabout was “filled to the brim” with water.
Until 6pm yesterday, many parts of Bukit Mertajam and the rest of Central Seberang Prai were still cut off as roads remained flooded.
When the storm was at its fiercest, at 3.30am, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng called Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and implored him to send in the army.
The boys in camouflage fatigues soon arrived and set about doing disaster relief and clearing work.
Penang remained in chaos with numerous traffic lights not functioning, leading to massive jams and even the Penang Hill funicular train stopped because there were landslides along the track, with many fallen trees.
But in the time of adversity came scores of heroes as doctors showed up at evacuation centres to help.
Backhoe drivers brought out their machines to clear up minor landslides.
Scores of residents came out with electric saws, axes and parang to cut up fallen trees blocking roads in gotong-royong (community effort) style.
Many companies and NGOs rushed to send lorry-loads of supplies or lend a hand at relief centres.
It is believed that the northern region of Malaysia was struck by the side winds of Typhoon Damrey, which had pummelled Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia since Saturday evening and was marked as a Category Two hurricane.