LAST_UPDATESun, 22 Jul 2018 9pm

The Monsoon Season Is Coming, Are You Prepared?

There is an old joke about Malaysia’s tropical weather that goes, “Malaysia have four seasons too, the monsoon season, the haze season, the dengue season and the durian season.”

Although funny, it is true. In Malaysia, we face all of these ‘seasons’ every year.

And as unglamourous as our four seasons might be compared to the traditional four seasons, it is what it is, and we should prepare ourselves for each season.

It is also safe to say that among all of the seasons, the monsoon season has proven to be the most devastating in terms of the destruction it brings, especially to the people.

So for the International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction, let’s look at the monsoon season, and how we can help prepare for it.

Malaysia Is Now In A Monsoon Transition Phase

We have all learnt about the monsoon season in school and it is usually associated with thunderstorms combined with copious amounts of rain. In Malaysia, we use the term monsoon to describe the rainy season, which typically happens at the end and the beginning of the year.

The Malaysian Meteorological Department has announced last week that Malaysia in now in a monsoon transition period which will last until November.

MetMalaysia director-general Alui Bahari cautioned in a statement urging the public to be "more careful" during the thunderstorms that occur during the monsoon transition phase that will result in heavy rain, strong winds, and lightning.

And as most Malaysians are well accustomed too, the monsoon season can bring with it plenty of destruction and devastation as well.

One disaster that immediately springs to mind when discussing the monsoon season is the great flood of 2014, which greatly affected states on the east coast, especially Pahang and Kelantan.

The ‘Great Flood of 2014’ is considered the worst floods case in Malaysia’s modern history, and altogether more than 300,000 people were relocated from their houses due to the floods affecting them.

The floods affected Kelantan the worst, with more than 170,000 people from approximately 36,000 families were relocated into 309 different relocation centres.

Personal accounts from Kelantanese people during the floods even said that the whole state was crippled during the floods.

Just this year, an unprecedented flash flood happened in Jalan Kuching early this year, which made a lot of people question why does Klang Valley floods still happen even though we have multiple flood mitigation projects, especially the SMART tunnel which costs the taxpayers so much?

Another recent catastrophic flood that crippled an entire state just occurred in Penang last month. Tens of thousands of Penangites faced massive flash floods triggered by an overnight downpour that crippled many parts of the state with houses in more than 100 locations flooded, some with floodwaters reaching up till the chest, while traffic in almost all major roads in the city was at a standstill.

Luckily for Malaysians, the federal government quickly showed that they learned from the disasters, with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak quickly establishing the National Disaster Management Agency, formed under the Prime Minister’s Department.

And they quickly proved their mettle as well, quickly responding to floods and other natural disasters in Malaysia, helping victims with their relocation and their adaptation process.

And on the state level, state governments have established plenty of flood mitigation projects, such as the groundbreaking SMART Tunnel, the Timah Tasoh West Flood Diversion, and other barrage and tunnels.

But somehow, even with all these flood mitigation projects, we still experience floods almost regularly.

According to Kamarul Azlan Mohd Nasir, a hydrology engineering lecturer from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, it is due to multiple factors.

Flood Mitigation Projects Are Not Designed To Prevent Floods Completely

“First you have to understand how the SMART tunnel works. With the SMART Tunnel, there are actually two tunnels that runs through it, the stormwater tunnel and the motorway tunnel.

“So the SMART tunnel functions in three modes. In it’s first mode, under normal conditions, the tunnel will operate normally. But in the second mode, flood water will be diverted into the stormwater tunnel, which runs under the motorway tunnel. And when the third mode is activated, where the floods are really bad, the motorway will be closed to act as a floodwater storage as well,” he said to Malaysian Digest.

So according to Kamarul, there is no malfunction regarding the functionality of the SMART Tunnel, but the floods are still happening due to the poor drainage around Kuala Lumpur.

“I think that it is unfair to blame the SMART tunnels, as it is working as intended. The reasons floods in Klang Valley are still happening is due to the poor drainage system in Kuala Lumpur,” said Kamarul.

Kamarul AzlanKamarul AzlanKamarul also said that flood mitigation projects are called ‘mitigation’ exactly that’s what it’s supposed to do, it’s supposed to mitigate floods, not prevent it altogether.

“You cannot think that with the flood mitigation projects, there will be no floods at all. Floods will still happen, flood mitigation projects are only supposed to make it less serious,” exclaimed Kamarul.

But there are also cases where the supposedly flood mitigation project allegedly causes the flood to become worse, such as the Timah Tasoh West Flood Diversion project, which allegedly caused the floods around Tebing Tinggi.

But even then, the project itself is not to be blamed, instead the tunnel did not work as it is supposed to due to the project delay.

"I am urging the state government, the Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) and the contractor concerned to expedite the project. If the contractor is unable to complete the project, might as well just terminate the contractor," said Kangar Member of Parliament Ir Shaharuddin Ismail.

So now we have established that even though we have a lot of flood mitigation projects, it is unfair for us to blame the projects as not working every time a flood happens.

But then, this raises the question, are we supposed to just sit there and take it every time a flood happens? What can we do?

Travel Light, In Case You Need To Be Relocated

For some Malaysians who live in rural areas by the river, the flood is a seasonal matter, like the oceans tides while for many of us urbanites, a flash flood often catches us unprepared. In the spirit of International Day of Disaster Preparedness, we sought out experts to share tips on how we should prepare for this common occurrence.

Malaysian Digest spoke to Ahmad Fairuz, who works in the Operations Department of the Unit Pengurusan Bencana Selangor.

According to Fairuz, there are a lot of things that can be done by the public, to ensure that they are not affected by floods.

“First, they need to be prepared. In Selangor, for houses that are located in areas that are at risk of disasters such as floods, we will notify them, so that they can prepare to be relocated,” said Fairuz.

“After that, we will work with the Meteorological Department to determine the when the flood will likely happen, and we will notify them to relocate one week before,” said Fairuz.

Fairuz said that when preparing for a disaster such as floods, it is imperative that people who are looking to be relocated to only bring their necessities.

“I have seen too many times people who are looking to be relocated to bring too many items, and it is hindering the relocating process for others,” said Fairuz.

And funnily enough, there are also people who are afraid of leaving their houses unattended even during a flood, and they don’t want to relocate.

“There have been some cases where some people don’t want to relocate, as they are afraid that their house will be damaged from the flood.

“I assure you, if a flood happens in your area, there is nothing you can do to save your house, or anything in it. The best thing to do in such emergencies is prepare for relocation, and relocate so that no unfortunate accidents can happen to you,” stressed Fairuz.

But what if it’s a flashflood? Flashfloods happen suddenly without any warning, and can catch someone by surprise.

And so, Fairuz shared with us some tips on what to do if you are caught in a flashflood.

“Always keep a first aid kit handy in your house, that’s one of the most important things. Then, ensure that your rations and supplies are enough to last you for at least 24 hours.

“You should also keep contacts for emergency services handy with you, so that you can call for rescue should you need it.

“If you think that it’s still safe, switch off all your electronic appliances and run to higher ground. But do this with caution, as you should always avoid walking through floodwater as it can be very dangerous,” explained Fairuz.

Fairuz also said that ultimately, almost all Malaysians should prepare themselves in case of disaster.

“Sometimes you don’t know when disaster is going to strike. That’s why it is very important for you to be prepared whereever you go. Most people take this lightly because they believe that they will never be affected by such disasters.

“But one thing about Mother Nature is that it’s unpredictable. So you should not take any chances, and be prepared for a disaster,” said Fairuz.

And Fairuz carries a valid point actually. Most houses is very ill prepared to face a disaster, especially a major one such as floods, landslides or such.

Too Many Malaysians Are Blissfully Ignorant About The Dangers Of Natural Disasters – MERCY Malaysia

Crystal Quah, who works at Mercy Malaysia also offered some insight into how Malaysians generally stay ignorant of disaster preparedness.

She stressed that it is imperative that the public is aware that they need to prepare for a disaster, even though their area has never been affected by a disaster.

“Right now, too many Malaysians are blissfully ignorant about the dangers of natural disasters, just because they are not affected by it,” said Crystal.

“We at Mercy are trying to create more awareness campaigns, so that Malaysians are more aware of the importance preparing adequately at your houses, your cars, and your office space.

Crystal said that the preparation that everyone should do inside their houses are too prepare enough rations and supplies to last them at least a few days, in case of an emergency.

“I cannot stress how important it is for people to be adequately prepared, especially in having rations and emergency supplies.

“In case of an emergency, such as floods, your emergency rations are what will help you survive until help comes. If you have no emergency rations, you will be in trouble.

And the government is taking the right steps to inform the public regarding natural disasters, and how they can prepare themselves for it.

In preparation of the coming monsoon season, the government is taking steps to ensure those that are at risk of disasters are informed, and that they are relocated if it’s necessary.

Before this, the national guideline is for the people at risk to be relocated 24 hours before an estimated flood, but now the guideline urges people to be relocated at least six days before an estimated flood.

But as from reading this article, you should know that although the government is getting ready for the monsoon season and natural disasters, it is still best that you keep yourself prepared as well. After all, disaster can strike anywhere.

The latest weather information can be obtained through the Malaysia Meteorological Department Facebook or Twitter page, its website, mobile application myCuaca, or Hotline at 1-300-22-1638