IT’S easy to forget that nature is still wild and unpredictable despite humankind’s efforts to tame and even destroy her.
Beautiful surroundings can turn deadly in an instant with barely any warning signs.
Last Sunday, 10 people – nine of them from a single family in Gambang, Pahang, including young children – were having a picnic at the Jeram Mawar waterfall near Chukai in Terengganu.
A sudden water surge swept away all 10; the Fire and Rescue Department has found nine bodies so far, and nobody expects to find the last person alive.
So much loss in one family is unfathomable and we can only extend our deepest condolences.
But out of this tragedy, we must find some meaning, and perhaps that can lie in the warning it offers.
Waterfalls are endlessly Instagrammable, so much so that we can easily forget the dangers associated with them.
Common sense says to be careful on slippery rocks around water, not to dive into a stream or river that might hide shallow depths, and of course, stay in your comfort zone if you aren’t a strong swimmer.
But the other more insidious danger is a water surge, which is a rapid increase in the volume and flow of water in a waterway.
It might not be raining where you are but if there’s heavy rainfall upstream, the results could be this sudden surge of fast-flowing water that is almost impossible to withstand.
The rain could be kilometres away, past what you can see, but the force of water channelled between riverbanks will travel a long distance.
Dark clouds and the beginning of rainfall should be a signal to get out of the water immediately, of course. Even without such signs, if the current increases, get back to the banks.
Of course, the best thing to do is to research before you even leave home: check the weather forecast (common sense dictates that if rain is predicted it’s better not to go); select well-known destinations that are deemed safe for visitors; and leave exploration of unknown areas to experienced adventurers.
The authorities can do their part by making sure there are signboards warning about any dangers in the area, along with instructions of how to react to save lives.
But even without such warnings we must learn to keep ourselves safe while enjoying this country’s beautiful natural heritage.
Safety should always come first.