WEATHER experts are predicting Malaysia would be facing the worst flood this year during the peak of the Northeast Monsoon season from November to January, which could be worse than last year’s flood.
But first, a recap on the cause of the worst flood in Selangor last year by climatologists especially Prof Dr Fredolin Tangang from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.
A tropical depression was first spotted off Sarawak and the South China Sea on Dec 15, 2021 before moving westward to Peninsular Malaysia.
It is formed by air that moves towards lower areas, rises and creates thunderstorms with strong winds, causing floods. When it travels overland, it is supposed to peter out.
However, this tropical depression that had caused floods in the eastern state of Terengganu, Kelantan and Pahang on Dec 16-17, instead of petering out, its supposedly weak remnants gathered strength and continued its move inland towards the Straits of Malacca.
This triggered continuous, heavy rainfall in the west coast, resulting in the worst flood in Selangor during the weekend of December 18 and 19.
The lesson learned then was we can no longer assume the monsoon season of October to March will cause the traditional massive floods only in the east coast states, as it can been seen last year it also happened in the west coast states of Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Negri Sembilan.
Also, when the remnant of the tropical depression gained strength as it travelled inland instead of petering out, this gave an element of un-expectancy when the volume of rainfall in Selangor on that fateful day in 24 hours was worth the volume of rainfall in a month.
Many felt then it was quite intriguing that this had happened. The analogy is that of a dying patient on the verge of death whom doctor has written off the chance of his or her survival suddenly becoming energetic and getting up from the ICU bed very alive and kicking.
Fast forward to a year later now, hopefully the answer to this intriguing question has been found by the experts, which will then help a lot in mitigating the harmful effect of a worst flood caused by heavy downpour of this kind.
Even if the answer is still not forthcoming, based on the adage that knowing a problem is already half the solution, the weathermen in Malaysia should look out for a situation where a tropical depression after offloading its moisture convergence suddenly become a force to be reckoned with, instead of a spent force.
This requires further monitoring of the “spent force” tropical depression by the weathermen whether it has really become a spent force or begun to gather strength again.
The logic lies in that if we can monitor it in advance, then we will be in a better position to prepare for the worst flood in the west coast.
It has to be borne in mind that during monsoon season with frequent heavy rainfall, flood – big or small – cannot be avoided.
But what we can certainly do is to mitigate the worst and tragic effects of a big flood by early preparation.
This includes educating and reminding the public to be always in a state of readiness by checking often the weather report of the Met Station, and observing the do’s and don’ts in a situation of continuous heavy downpour occurring for hours, among others.
Also, the phenomenon of climate change will have to be factored in which has caused extreme weather events to occur.
The only difference climate change adds to the flood equation is the increasing frequency of rainfall and its unpredictability that have been occurring for the past few decades.
Water (rain) is not our enemy; it is our friend sent by Allah (or mother nature for those who don’t believe in the existence of God) as a blessing for the survival of the human species.
And climate change that has been the talk of the world for decades is itself not the result of the destructive work of water, but that of humankind which is inflicted on nature via relentless logging and burning of fossil fuel, among others, all in the name of progress and development for humankind.
Of course, we need progress and development that distinguish us from the animal species but that doesn’t mean we need to attain them at the expense of the very abode we live in.
Thus, it is very apt when the Quran says: “Calamities (mischief, corruption) have appeared on land and sea because of what the hands of the people have earned, so that He (Allah) makes them taste some of what they did, in order that they may return (to the right way)” – Ar-Rum (30): 41
And the right way alluded to in the Quran is sustainable development, the very progress that is in tune with not only our material wellbeing but also a holistic one which takes into account the non-material aspects of development such as a flourishing flora and fauna, emotional wellbeing in having a good physical and mental health and spiritual wellbeing.
The act of destruction in the form of relentless logging, massive deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels has resulted in an excessive increase in the emission of greenhouse gases, which in turn has caused global warming.
When temperature increases, the air has more ability to hold more moisture. This moisture will then come down as rainfall.
As the atmosphere is sucking up more water (around 7% more water for every 1°C rise in temperature), heavy rainfall is more likely to happen in the coastal regions, and severe droughts in the middle of continents.
This is the reason why in one country, there could be floods in one region and raging forest fires in another, occurring at the same time.
This is also the reason why the recent worst flood in Baling occurred outside the current monsoon season, highlighting very much the unpredictable nature of climate change.
In the worst flood that occurred last year in Selangor, boats seemed to be in a short supply causing many to be trapped at their home on rooftops.
Calls by victims trapped at home for boats to be deployed to help evacuate them to the nearest flood relief centres were even heard on national television.
But a few days after the floods, some boat owners had put up advertisements on social media and volunteering their assistance to move those living in the areas where the flood had not subsided yet to safer areas.
This shows that there is not so much a lack of boats that’s the problem but the mobilisation of boat owners to join the humanitarian mission to help those trapped at their homes to be brought to safer areas.
What can be done is for the relevant authority in each state to have a database of boat owners in the state who could be mobilised and deployed on a voluntary basis for a search and rescue mission during a worst flood to help victims trapped in dire strait at their homes or any buildings.
This time around the Government had actually done a good job of getting a total of 79,549 personnel and rescue agency members ready to be deployed with its assets in case a bad flood occurred.
It has also mobilised 22,622 assets comprising boats, boat trailers and jet skis. But it is all right to also mobilise boat owners in this regard so that every will have a stake in chipping in with the search-and-rescue efforts.
What’s important here is that all these efforts need to be coordinated in an effective and efficient manner.
The relevant authorities could also start to identify abandoned lands on higher ground near flood-prone areas to make it a parking lot for those who are on the road during the early hours of a big flood to park their vehicles.
This will minimise the cost of damages to vehicles, which are common during floods. – Oct 12, 2022
Jamari Mohtar is the Editor of Let’s Talk!, an e-newsletter on current affair.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.
Main photo credit: The Star