Penangites reel from storm havoc

GEORGE TOWN — Penang stood still yesterday as flash floods occurred in some parts of the island, some at knee-deep water levels.

Holidaymakers had their weekend plans disrupted as traffic jams also occurred in most parts of the city for about two hours.

At an oil palm plantation in Sungai Bakap, a 20-year-old Nepali worker was killed during the pre-dawn thunderstorm when an oil palm tree fell on his shack. A Fire and Rescue Department spokesman said they received a distress call at about 10.25am and dispatched a six-man team to the plantation.

He said the firemen found the victim pinned beneath the debris of the shack.

“We cut and removed the tree to allow the police forensic team to begin investigations,” he said, adding that the body was sent to Sungai Bakap Hospital for a post-mortem.

In Taman Lip Sin, Sungai Dua, an uprooted tree damaged seven cars when it fell on a covered car park.

The last major thunderstorm to strike Penang was in July.

In Bandar Air Itam, residents at high-rise apartments said they felt their homes ‘’shake’’ due to strong winds.

Sumaiyah Abdull Shukor, 32, who lives on the 39th floor of an apartment block, said she had never experienced such strong winds before.

“We might have strong winds before but they never shook the apartment building. I could feel it and the howling of the wind was scary,” she said.

Another resident, Lim Chee Lian, 44, said rainwater seeped into her house through the windows.

“I was afraid that something bad would happen but I am relieved that it did not last long,” she said.

The thunderstorm, which began at about 1am, caused traffic congestion in the city, including Lebuh Hutton, Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah, Jalan Farquhar, Jalan Burmah and Jalan Penang. Low-lying Jalan P. Ramlee was hit by flash floods. The rain and strong winds stopped at about 8.40am.

Kassim Abdullah, 65, a retired government servant who has been living the area for the past 30 years, said flash floods in the area were common.

“We move our household items to a higher ground whenever there is heavy rain,” said Kassim.

“We were lucky as the water receded quickly as the water was knee-deep,” said Kassim.

His neighbour, housewife Siti Salmah Harun, 45, was also relieved that the flash flood did not do much damage.

“The low-lying area in our village is prone to flooding. We have no choice but to continue to live here as we are poor and cannot relocate to a safer area,” she said.

Siti added that her children had to save their books from getting wet as school reopens today.

The Meteorological Department forecast scattered and isolated thunderstorms this week on the island.

Malaysian Nature Society adviser D. Kanda Kumar said hill-clearing and development without proper planning for drainage have worsened the situation.

“Developers have to take the responsibility as they only build drains for that area,” he said.

“The poor people living around the project are affected if proper drainage is ignored.”

He said drains have not been upgraded to absorb bigger volume of rainwater.

“The area near Sungai Pinang is prone to flooding whenever there is heavy rain. Those living there should be relocated.

“The authorities should consider building houses either on raised platform or stilts.”

Sahabat Alam Malaysia president S.M. Mohamed Idris echoed similar sentiments and called on the authorities to review major drains and canals in the island.

“Although some flood mitigation projects have been carried out, more needs to be done for a comprehensive solution.

“The poor cannot afford to move to higher ground and become the victims.”

The water levels at the Air Itam and Teluk Bahang reservoirs rose sharply yesterday.

The Air Itam Dam water level was up the 90 per cent capacity while the Teluk Bahang Dam recorded 50 per cent capacity.

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