Brace for impact – prepare early for El Nino, experts warn

KUALA LUMPUR: Early preparations should be made to minimise the impact of the strong El Nino expected next month, says an environmental expert.

Assoc Prof Dr Haliza Abdul Rahman said although Malaysia has experienced the phenomenon several times, early preparations are still necessary.

She said as of 2015, El Nino has hit the country 12 times, with the first between 1951 and 1952.

The worst case happened from 1997 to 1998, when the highest temperature of 40.1°C was recorded at Chuping Meteorological Station in Perlis on April 9, 1998.

“The government should monitor the water level of all rivers and dams, activate emergency response plans, explore alternative water sources, carry out cloud seeding, provide logistic support while encouraging people to conserve water, among others.

“Also, improve all forms of medical and emergency assistance, such as medicines for victims and firefighting equipment in the event of a fire,” she told Bernama.

Haliza said people should also be prepared mentally and physically to deal with water shortages and even water rationing.

“The public should avoid activities that may cause a fire. Combustible materials should be stored well, while open burning such as the burning of garbage, agricultural waste and construction waste should be avoided.

“This is to avoid air pollution that can cause haze. If there is an open fire, it must be reported immediately to the authorities,” she added.

Climate experts have warned that the El Nino phenomenon is expected to hit Malaysia in the middle of the year with the possibility of the weather getting hotter and drier than the typical conditions during the normal southwest monsoon.

Meanwhile, environmental health expert Prof Dr Juliana Jalaludin has advised the public to drink plenty of water and wear light-coloured and light clothing besides avoiding physical activity.

“Also, always use sunscreen such as broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 15 or more when outdoors because sunburn affects the body’s ability to cool itself,” she said.

She also said no one should be left in a stationary vehicle because the internal temperature can rise by more than 11°C in 10 minutes.

Malaysian Public Health Organisation adviser Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar said El Nino will increase the risk of vector-borne diseases such as dengue and malaria, as well as water and food-borne diseases such as typhoid and respiratory tract diseases.

He said one of the preparations that people can do to take care of their health is to store adequate clean water and healthy food and be in shady areas when outside their homes.

He also urged the government to ensure sufficient and efficient water supply services, to make available fresh and cheap food supplies and provide early warnings to the people during the phenomenon.

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