Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lessons From The Flood

This is by far the worse flood in more than a decade (some say 3) Alor Setar. I think more than half the city experienced some form of flooding. In my own area, I think the deepest was around chest deep... and that's was just not too far from our place. I see the kampung folks walking past with 'water-line' at their chest level. I stopped some of them to 'sembang-sembang' a bit too. Many of them suffered tremendous losses!

Many people say the KTM double tracking project undertaken by MMC-GAMUDA (I think one of the royal families has a big stake in it) had a hand in making it one of the worst floods ever in Kedah. Of course, they denied it. At the height of the flood, if you were to go to the flyover near Tmn PKNK, you'd see the bund where the tracks lie separating the flooded area and the 'dry' area. But then again, the contractor said the flood was because of the heavier than normal downpour..... I think the flood would have happened regardless but the double tracking did make it worse, much.

What I observed... the lack of information from the authorities. Many people were caught by surprise how fast the water came up. I can't imagine the losses suffered by some. I've learned quite a bit from this experience. For one, instead of depending on information by word of mouth, I've turned to the Internet (am so glad for the Netbook and mobile connectivity) for information.
MADA Telemetri
One is by watching the river levels myself. MADA has a telemetry system where the levels of the rivers are recorded by the hour. By watching it I learned when to expect more flood waters. Also, I noticed that the ups and downs have their own cycle.... tide times. So we learned to be more watchful at certain times. My bro kindly emailed me a site to get a more accurate time. It helped to alleviate many of our worries! The only problem is the information from the MADA site is not well organized at all. A map showing how all the rivers are connected would have been a great help. But there's Google Map to turn to. I'm thankful for my Geography lessons. 8)

I've also gained better understanding about the workings of the high and low tides. Now I've an app in my Ipod which provides me with accurate info about it. Both Other Half and I continue to monitor the rivers for our own peace of mind... Sg Bata in Jitra (that's the early warning), Sg Kepala Batas, Pantai Johor and Sungai Kedah at various points. The ups and downs give us an indication of what to expect. Flood waters creep in silently and quickly but if we take heed, though inevitable, we'd still be able to buy a little time to prepare.
Alor Setar Flood 2010
At Teluk Wanjah, all it took was just a couple of hours for the roundabout to turn into a huge swimming pool accessible only to heavy vehicles. Even the town centre got inundated and the basement shops at City Plaza must have suffered huge losses cos flooding over there is unthinkable and they were unprepared. Flood water and its capillary-like reach can go far and quick...
Flood,Alor Setar 2010
Rumours take on a life of their own... there are lots of 'misinformation' from well-meaning people. An example,... As the flood water was receding suddenly my friend said her sister told her 6 dams will be releasing water soon! I got on the phone (thank God for that) to ask another friend to read the newspaper article. Turned out that they will open 6 gates of the Timah Tasoh Dam if the weather conditions worsen. Then when the power came back on, I read the news myself... turned out that particular segment was meant for the situation in Kangar! Also, every evening, people will be reminding each other that the Thai authorities would be releasing water in the night... thus they became the bad guys. LOL!

The paranoia and fear remained with us, after the flood water receded, word started to get around that SADA (the water company) would be shutting their Bukit Pinang water treatment plant and we'd be left with dry taps for 2-3 days. This coming after 3-6 days (depending on area) without power supply and 3-5 days without proper water supply. Info is available on the SADA website... most people don't think of checking it there. Everyone is very jittery now.

There are lots of lessons for us in this disaster. The authorities are basically quite unable to cope well with a disaster of this magnitude. Rescues were fraught with problems and prejudices. Professionalism was lacking from the authorities.... UMNO as usual use it for their political gains... One of my friends who was driving to Perlis saw this huge truck with Shahidan Kassim's photo perched on the engine and a banner stating his constituency... he was trying to gain some publicity from 'helping' the flood victims.... udang di sebalik batu. Only God knows what his niat(s) were. According to Chinese customs putting a photo such as this indicates a funeral procession. LOL!!!!

But the NGOs and some religious groups helped without prejudices. It was not uncommon to see churches and the Buddhist groups going around on their own giving aid regardless of affinity or race. Shame on many of our government rescue units who went on the basis of skin colour.

One Indian man called up for a boat for his ailing mother... the first question he was asked was what race he was. And then he was told they give preference to their own kind... such kind blatant prejudices, fed by our education system and also the poisoning of the minds at their religious institutions... Life apparently is divided into Malay, Chinese, Indian by such bigots. In one Chinese school which was turned into an evacuation centre, evacuees vandalized it by writing words like China Babi on the boards... I guess they didn't realize too that it takes another pig to identify another pig..... Humans identify humans, pigs identify pigs. I didn't know that pigs too are divided into different races and can identify each other. 8)

Such a sorry state that we've allowed ourselves to evolve into.... who is to blame???

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