PETALING JAYA: Forget the ides of March, it’s deadly December that Malaysians have to beware of.
The last month of the year typically brings heavy rainfall due to the northeast monsoon season but it has also brought with it many tragedies, some of which had nothing to do with the rains.
Among the catastrophes that happened in December are deadly landslides, floods, plane crashes, collapsed buildings and even the tsunami of 2014.
One of the most tragic December disasters was the Tanjung Kupang airplane crash on Dec 4, 1977 – the country’s first every aircraft hijack incident.
After being hijacked, the plane crashed into a mangrove forest in Tanjung Kupang in Johor, killing 93 passengers and seven crew members.
There was also the horrific Highland Towers tragedy on Dec 11, 1993, the worst tragedy in the nation’s housing history.
The tower, one of three 12-storey blocks occupied since 1979, collapsed like a deck of cards when the earth shifted. The earth had given way after 10 days of rainfall.
A total of 48 people died, while those in Block 2 and 3 lost their homes as they were evacuated.
Almost 30 years on, the two blocks still stand eerily in the overgrowth, gruesome reminders of the terrible tragedy.
Three years later, in 1996, Tropical Storm Greg swept through Sabah, causing a landslide on Boxing Day which claimed over 200 lives while 70 are still unaccounted for.
In 2004, disaster again struck on Boxing Day.
An earthquake in Sumatra caused a tsunami that left 68 dead nationwide, including 52 in Penang alone.
It was the deadliest tsunami recorded in history and was triggered by a 9.3 magnitude undersea earthquake off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, claiming more than 200,000 lives in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, India, Maldives and Sri Lanka.
In 2007, floods in five states including Sabah and Sarawak, took 17 lives and saw over 100,000 evacuated to relief centres.
On Dec 6, 2008, a deadly landslide in Bukit Antarabangsa, Selangor killed four and injured 15 others.
Major flooding also took place in December 2014, with Kelantan seeing some of the worst floods on record, with even two-storey homes submerged, while other states such as Terengganu, Pahang and Perak were also badly affected.
At least 21 people died in the floods, while 200,000 people had to evacuate their homes.
Even as late as early January 2015, 85,000 flood victims were still living in shelters or temporary accommodation.
Most recently, last year brought the “100-year rain”, with a month’s worth of rainfall pouring down in a single day on Dec 18, resulting in major floods in the east coast and the Klang Valley.
This weather event is said to occur only once in a hundred years, thus the “100-year rain” term.
And just as the country was about to remember the anniversary of that major floods, disaster struck again in the wee hours of Dec 16, 2022.
A landslide hit Father’s Organic Farm in Batang Kali, Selangor. So far, the death toll stands at 24 but it could rise as nine are still missing.