SHAH ALAM: On Dec 18, last year, the nation's developed and populous state Selangor, was jolted by unprecedented floods, the worst in half a decade.
Today marks one month of the massive catastrophe, which displaced many victims from their homes.
The torrential rain over the weekend caused rivers to overflow, flooding towns and villages and rendering major roads impassable, with many motorists left trapped in their vehicles for hours.
By now, many affected residents have started to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of the massive calamity. There's no question, some damage from the disaster may remain permanent reminders of pain, especially for those who lost their family members. Property value losses from the tragic floods which claimed 25 lives in the state, are enormous.
No one expected the torrential rain which began on Friday and lasted more than 24 hours, could end up with catastrophic floods the next day and changed the state's industrial landscape. According to the Malaysian Meteorological Department, the total amount of rainfall on that day was more than 300 millimeters, equivalent to the average rainfall for month.
The persistent rain also caused several areas such as the state capital Shah Alam as well as neighbouring districts including Dengkil, Banting, Kuala Langat and Hulu Langat to be submerged in 4.5 meters of floodwaters, with water levels rising to dangerous levels.
As journalists, dealing with the unexpected is the nature of the job, but that's what makes it an exciting career.
For this writer, who took the helm as Bernama Bureau Chief in Selangor a year ago, the disaster was her first experience covering floods, but she took the challenge in her stride.
Admittedly, she panicked at the sight of hundreds of photos and videos on the social media of victims trapped in their homes and stranded on highways on the fateful day.
The devastating floods, which cut off access to major roads and electricity supply as well as communications infrastructure, made it difficult for the media to cover the disaster, especially in reporting the latest news on Taman Sri Muda, the worst affected area.
Located south-west of Shah Alam, Taman Sri Muda which is near Bukit Kemuning, was inaccessible from all directions due to the widespread floods which submerged nearly 9,000 homes, hence making immediate relief efforts difficult.
Amid the challenges, the latest news report on the disaster had to be released for public information, and Alhamdulillah (praise be to Allah), this writer managed to reach Bukit Kemuning. As the surrounding areas were engulfed in darkness, only echoes of voices of the victims who were stranded on higher ground and on their houses' rooftops, could be heard, in the cold weather.
It was only 48 hours later that rescue and relief missions arrived, after floodwaters receded. However, the area was low-pitched compared to the surrounding areas, hence causing the water to be stagnant even after the rain has stopped.The authorities were forced to use a portable pump to suck water out to allow the residents to return home five days later.
While Taman Sri Muda is prone to flash floods, residents did not anticipate the area could experience a deluge of floodwaters as bad as the Dec 18 disaster which claimed 12 lives.
The black episode has propelled a polemic on the sustainability of Taman Sri Muda, which is one of the most populated areas in Selangor's Kota Kemuning constituency, and cast doubts on whether the area is still safe for dwellers.
A senior citizen who has been residing in Taman Sri Muda for almost 35 years, Pang Lu Tan, 72, said, he never thought of moving out of his house despite having experienced massive floods twice in 1995 and last year.
"I bought this house from my own savings during my working days...I have no plans to move elsewhere, but I hope the government can do something so that the flood risks can be reduced," he told Bernama when met recently.
Another resident Suriyani Abdul Razak, 40, also does not plan to shift out given the high costs involved, but gets worried whenever it rains as it reminds her of the Dec 18 floods.
However, she is now better prepared, making sure all essential items are safely kept in one place and can be easily taken out whenever floods recur.
A random Bernama survey last week showed that the area has emerged from the doldrums, with the area bustling with economic and social activities, while most residents met admitted that they were still reeling from the devastating floods.
Many commercial areas were still closed for renovation and cleaning of their premises while about 20 per cent of food outlets, electrical product shops as well as workshops have opened for business.
Over a period of three weeks, the federal and state governments, as well as non-governmental organisations (NGOs) undertook the cleaning up of Taman Sri Muda, and according to Shah Alam Mayor Datuk Zamani Ahmad Mansor, plans are in the pipeline to restore the landscape and infrastructure of the area.
From the flood mitigation aspect, the state government has said, it has taken an immediate measure to build another sluice gate in Taman Sri Muda with a pumping capacity of 5,100 litres per second which is expected to be completed within a year in addition to providing portable high pressure water pumps.
Various assistance have been provided in aid of flood victims, among others the federal government's compassionate aid Bantuan Wang Ihsan (BWI) and Selangor government's Bantuan Selangor Bangkit (BSB). Households affected by the recent floods are eligible for cash aid of RM1,000 each under the schemes.
Other assistance included the purchase of essential goods assistance of RM2,500, discounts for vehicle repair, RM500 rebate for purchase of electrical products as well as house repair assistance of between RM5,000 and RM15,000 or RM56,000 for rebuilding a house. All these assistance have been disbursed on Jan 10.
Meanwhile, several residents interviewed by Bernama said many were unaware of the availability of such assistance.
A local resident Mohd Hajarul Aswad Johari, 31, said he only knew of BWI an BSB as they were often publicised in the mainstream and social media.
LESSONS FROM DEC 18 FLOODS
After one month, issues related to weaknesses in disaster management on the part of the state and federal governments as well as the related agencies, continue to take centre stage in community debates, hence the relevant authorities should admit there existed weaknesses in their disaster preparedness and response.
Besides that, some quarters view the weakness to failure of certain quarters to heed warnings by the Meteorological Department as well as environmental experts that climate change and its impact, contributed to the massive floods.
In fact, the experts have not ruled out the possibility of Taman Sri Muda and several other high risk areas could be hit by similar flooding in the future.
For media practitioners, including this writer, we do not want the Dec 18 calamity to be a yearly or monthly event on our news coverage in the state. Hence,it is hoped that all quarters - government and the rakyat - should learn the lessons from the dark episode which has hampered the rapid development in Selangor and strive for the better.
Tue Jan 18 2022
No one expected the torrential rain which began on that Friday and lasted more than 24 hours, could end up with catastrophic floods the next day and changed the state's industrial landscape. - Astro AWANI
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