Heavy rainy spells could trigger landslides in high-risk areas

IT is an undeniable fact that the rainy spell of the last two months was the main cause of the Batang Kali tragedy.

During any lengthy spell of heavy downpours, slopes are the first to become dangerous and risky as water seeps into the slopes and the additional burden and weight of the earth can trigger large landslides. It is simply a case of gravity giving way!

The Batang Kali site was an ideal site where the slope could fail during an extremely long rainy spell, as is occurring presently. The hilly and mountainous area around the Genting Highlands has been heavily developed for various activities, and a lot of slopes have been created for the construction of roads and buildings.

Technical teams and the local authorities need to monitor large slopes, especially where there are buildings or residences inhabited by a lot of people living in the vicinity. These people can be alerted and asked to evacuate.

Landslides can cause widespread damage far from the original site where the earth began moving, and they could damage homes and buildings in what are regarded as safer distances away from the slope. This was what happened in Batang Kali when observing the landslide spot.

Search and rescue operations during the rainy spell can make the site muddy, messy, and risky for SAR personnel as well as the earth-moving machines and excavators.

During the present rainy spell, the authorities at the national level should have issued alerts and warnings, and possibly the Batang Kali site may have been temporarily closed until the rainy spell was over, and the camp site could resume operations later. Possibly, the country was too engrossed in the 15th General Election and its aftermath.

West Malaysia, being a more mountainous  region, needs to give greater emphasis to landslides, as rainy spells not only bring the usual floods but also other risks involving hilly and mountainous stretches. The best way will be to monitor such risky areas.

The local and state authorities who permit development in the hilly and mountainous areas need to have a list of risky areas, which they should check and monitor for any telltale signs. They should conduct more checks during rainy spells that last more than a fortnight. It is the responsibility and duty of local governments to approve developments in high-risk areas.

Malaysians would have observed that the torrential downpours of the last two months could trigger some calamities somewhere in the country as is the usual case. In fact, luckily none happened until the Batang Kali tragedy struck.

Rainy spells in the Peninsula should raise awareness of the risks of developments in these elevated areas that are not flood-related. Floods are easier to predict than landslides and cave-ins that affect roads and various kinds of activities.

The best way to avoid any more Batang Kali episodes is to issue alerts advising people using these risky areas to be more careful, if not reduce their activities during the rainy spell. Allowing a camping site for school children in a risky area, especially during a heavy rainy spell for the last two months was a big risk if one looks back in hindsight.

During heavy seasonal rainy spells, the authorities need to broadcast more messages on all media concerning landslides, floods,floods and other natural calamities to ensure that the danger is always in the minds of the people, as people tend to easily forget and go about their normal routine.

The year-end rainy spell coincides with the school and festive holidays, and warning messages will enable people to choose safer places to visit or go for a holiday.

With climate change, the rains we are experiencing are heavier and can cause more natural calamities, and the best way to safeguard against them is to be careful, commonsensical  and have foresight. — Dec 21, 2022

V.Thomas is a Focus Malaysia viewer.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.


Main photo credit: Reuters

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