Flood of criticism over delayed response

Those who suffered huge losses in the Taman Sri Muda floods will need help to start over.

Victims in Taman Sri Muda and elsewhere are asking what went wrong

ON THIS day last week, no one knew that Selangor was about to experience one of the biggest floods in its history.

The Malaysian Meteorological Department had warned of thunderstorms and heavy rainfall, but who could have anticipated the magnitude of damage it would cause?

It was a gloomy morning, with dark clouds hiding the morning sun, but people thought little of it because it was after all the rainy season.

Many had looked forward to the year-end holidays and were out and about for their Christmas shopping and other planned activities but by afternoon, it had dawned on some in several areas of the Klang Valley that this would be no ordinary day.

The worst-affected area was Taman Sri Muda in Shah Alam.

Although residents knew it was a flood-prone area, with some having experienced the last major flooding in 1995, they were not overly worried.

This was because after several incidents, a flood mitigation system was installed at Sungai Klang, next to the housing area.

“Even when it rained heavily, the floods would not reach my area in Zone C.

“But this time, the water rose to 8ft!” said a long-time resident of Taman Sri Muda, Albert Chen, 55.

“My family managed to move out before the water level got that high but others were not so lucky.

“The electricity supply was cut off at 5pm on Saturday, and shortly after, the area suffered network failure.

“Even when the calls went through, the line was breaking.

“Water was rising rapidly, people were scrambling to safety on the second floor and even rooftops.“There was no connection with the outside world. The scene was chaotic.

“We expected the authorities to come and get us but they just came to have a look.

“After waiting for hours, the first to arrive and rescue us were volunteers with non-governmental organisations.

“Rescue teams from government agencies came very much later.

“The death toll in Selangor would have been higher if not for the NGOs and volunteers.”

Chen said he was disappointed to learn that the sluice gates and pumps — which were supposed to prevent floods — were not functioning.

“It breaks my heart to know that the floods or at least the magnitude could have been reduced, if only the equipment was working like it was supposed to.”

At least 41 people have died nationwide due to the flooding and the lives of many families have changed forever.

One of the reasons rescue efforts were hampered was due to the lack of boats.

It did not help that VIPs commandeered boats to check out the floods with their entourage, however well-intended.Those responsible for the flood mitigation system should also be held accountable.

People were already suffering from the Covid-19 pandemic, and now their properties are damaged and belongings ruined.

This reminded me of our former prime minister Tun Abdullah Badawi’s words that Malaysia has first-class facilities with a third-class mentality.

He said it in 2006, when expressing his views on the Ninth Malaysia Plan, commenting on how the country had the hardware but lacked software due to bad work practices, poor execution, inept management and shoddy maintenance.

His words still hold true today.

When will we learn? Must we always wait for a disaster to happen before preventive measures are taken?

The government would know the location of all flood-prone areas in the country and should have appropriate disaster management measures in place.

After this, I am sure the authorities will come up with a master plan of sorts on flood mitigation.

Millions of ringgit would be spent to build state-of-the-art facilities.

But we will only know the efficacy when the next “once in 100 years weather” strikes again.

Or maybe we should learn our lesson and not expect too much from the government.

Instead we should learn how to swim and invest in life jackets and inflatable boats. After all, we never know when we may need it ourselves or use it to help others.


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