Ignore govt flood mitigation efforts at your own peril

THE government is fully prepared in mitigating the effect of a worst flood this year, which experts have predicted to occur during the peak period of the northeast monsoon.

It had started the preparation from the beginning of this year even before this prediction.

On September 12, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced early measures to tackle the year-end floods, after chairing the Central Disaster Management Committee meeting, which discussed preparations for the floods from November to March.

This, he said, included instructing the Education Ministry to convert vacant boarding school hostels into relief centres for flood victims, especially senior citizens, women and children.

The Social Welfare Department has activated 6,010 evacuation centres that could house more than 1.6 million people.

Ismail said the government has set aside RM2.59 million to upgrade facilities and infrastructure in evacuation centres.

“The Welfare Department should prepare meals for the first 24 hours and necessities for babies and senior citizens,” he said.

“The National Disaster Management Agency has distributed 59,350 food kits and 127,272 tents. State and district disaster management committees should get ready early so that aid can be distributed to all locations, especially if roads are cut off during floods.

“These committees should also ensure that early-warning systems (EWSs) are working. The authorities will make announcements about evacuations through loudspeakers.”

He urged people living in low-lying areas to be aware of early warnings and evacuate their homes once the authorities notify them.

On September 7, the Fire and Rescue Department reported 73 dangerous locations nationwide that are at risk of being hit by a water surge.

On August 9, the Forestry Department director-general Mohd Ridza Awang announced that the department will install EWSs at 20 forest eco parks at risk of landslides and water surges.

On June 11, Minerals and Geoscience Department director-general Hisamuddin Termidi informed that an EWS to detect geological disasters, especially debris flow, developed by the department, in partnership with Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, has been installed at the Titi Hayun Recreational Forest to provide advance warning in the event of a water surge in the area.

In March, Environment and Water Minister Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Mat said the Department of Irrigation and Drainage (DID) has implemented a flood forecast and warning programme.

Sirens will be sounded when the water level exceeds a certain threshold value to give early warnings to locals with flood forecasts as early as seven days, and warnings as early as two days provided to locations expected to face flooding.

On January 20, Shah Alam police chief Baharudin Mat Taib advised people to look out for themselves and their families and always be prepared for any eventualities due to flooding.

On January 3, Ismail said the government plans to increase siren stations that are also equipped with public announcements at flood-prone areas to warn residents and instruct them to evacuate.

This was part of the proposed improvements discussed in the Post-Northeast Monsoon Flood Disaster Management Task Force special meeting, which he chaired.

The proposed improvements also include having a Centralised Flood Siren Warning System coordinated by the DID; closed-circuit television cameras at river level monitoring stations to enable residents to be prepared to evacuate should the river water reach the danger level; and numerical weather prediction.

Ismail said to enhance protection for drainage and beach infrastructure, the Environment and Water Ministry proposed an increase in the average recurrence interval (ARI) from 100 years to 200 years.

ARI is a way of explaining how rare an event is, by comparing how often, on average, the particular event of interest has occurred in the past – for example, more than once a year, more than once a decade and more than once in 30 years.

Apart from that, the meeting also looked into the proposals to improve communications, education and public awareness through flood simulations and information disseminated by the Communications and Multimedia Ministry.

Ismail said strategic communications involved announcements on warnings and information on the current situation, government aid, arising issues, efforts to detect fake news and issuance of rebuttal of fake news.

He said for that purpose, the platforms being used are the mass media, social media, Information Department channels and through go-to-the-ground, advocacy, publication and engagement efforts.

He said the implementation of all the initiatives would be constantly monitored by the task force to ensure the national disaster preparedness and management mechanisms will always be improved and at the optimum level.

On EWS, the Johor Town Council has introduced a good initiative – a mobile EWS warning people nearby of the danger of flash floods.

But all these early preparations announced by the government will come to naught if the people ignore them. – October 13, 2022.

* Jamari Mohtar reads The Malaysian Insight.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight. Article may be edited for brevity and clarity.

Sign up or sign in here to comment.