Bracing for another ‘adik tsunami’

Terence Fernandez
The Malaysian Insider
7 January 2015

The end of the school term in November usually marked the beginning of an annual pilgrimage for all the items on the ground floor of our teachers’ quarters unit in Kuala Krai, Kelantan.

It was when we would start moving our furniture, electrical items and other valuables to the top floor of our home. After that laborious work, which usually took two days, we would make a dash for it to my grandmother’s house in Tapah, Perak, to celebrate Christmas.

A quick exit from Kelantan was necessary to avoid road closures and dangerous driving conditions because of the annual floods.

There were years when we decided to tempt Mother Nature and stayed put. Some years we were lucky, as the waters did not enter the house, other years we were not so lucky, like one Christmas Eve when our living room started flooding while my mother was busy preparing Christmas dinner in the kitchen.

In any case, we considered ourselves lucky as the waters usually stopped three steps shy of entering the top floor. There was also Mrs Bala who lived in a bungalow on a hill behind our house which would be our refuge until the waters receded.

Fed up with the annual ritual, my parents bought a house in another part of town – paying a premium as this was a “flood-free” area.

Well, it was flood-free for the last 23 years until last December when the entire ground floor was inundated. The family were in Kuala Lumpur, hence there was no one to salvage our belongings, including a piano and my father’s 1978 classic Toyota Celica.

But most heart-wrenching was the almost complete loss of 45 years of family photographs.

But as I prepare to make another trip this weekend to clean our family home, I count my blessings – at least I have a house to wash! Not a single home of the 400 houses in Manek Urai was left unscathed. Half were washed away.

Our previous home at the quarters was completely engulfed by the rising waters – only the roof could be seen.

A lot has been said about the floods in the east coast, where many still think it is just an annual occurrence. There have been enough reports and pictures published to indicate that it is not the usual monsoon.

There have been accusations against TNB for opening the Pergau Dam that sent millions of litres of water into the lowlands – without warning.

Survivors give an account of “air jernih” (clear water) coming towards them. I can give credence to their claims as while washing our house we encountered crystal clear water trapped in pots and crockery – not the usual muddy waters.

Deforestation, especially in Lojing and parts of Gua Musang, must be singled out as probable cause.

In this instance, both the state and federal government have failed the people. Who should be taken to task for not evacuating the people from low-lying areas earlier? Why was the Pergau Dam emptied without warning? Any dam engineer would be able to calculate the rainfall against the capacity of the dam to give a timeline of when to open the floodgates – hence being able to give ample time for people to flee.

The omission of the federal government in declaring an emergency has rendered Kuala Krai, for instance, a ghost town. Apart from two choppers landing with aid at the District Office, and scant number of soldiers, there is no semblance of anyone in charge.

Why did the multi-million ringgit flood mitigation plan developed in the 1990s fail us this time?

No ramps have been built over damaged roads in Kuala Krai and Manek Urai. It took us an hour to traverse a 1km road, which had partly caved in, because of the absence of such ramps.

Why did the Fire Department or Army Engineering Corps not pump water from the river to help wash the town, so businesses could operate again? The long-term economy of the town is going to be impacted as all businesses in the town centre are at a standstill, save for a hardware store selling water pumps and jet sprays salvaged from the flood.

Where were the clean water stations that the army is able and supposed to set up within hours of waters receding to provide drinking water to the people?

Kuala Krai was in complete darkness until Monday. One miserable patrol car was seen patrolling the town as several shopkeepers spent the night in front of their shops to safeguard their belongings drying outside.

One should not buy the excuse of “this is the annual monsoon, deal with it” any more. No floods have caused this much misery and loss in our country’s history.

Shaking our heads and shrugging our shoulders in despair without thinking of a solution just mean we will not be prepared for another “adik tsunami”, as the locals have named the worst flood in history. – January 7, 2015.

  1. #1 by boh-liao on Wednesday, 7 January 2015 - 2:03 pm

    Some rakyat always proudly claimed dat dis 1DERful land is better than Bangladesh and the Philippines in terms of large scale flooding
    R we really better off?

  2. #2 by Justice Ipsofacto on Thursday, 8 January 2015 - 9:05 am

    The disaster is no accident. Nor acts of god (sorry velu). IN FACT, it is an omen. Three air disasters and a massive flood over a significant part of the peninsular, all in one year. Coupled with dropping petroleum prices and the ringgit.

    Are we witnessing a sort of turbulent end of umno and the RAHMAN legacy?

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