The Sun Says - Heed flood warnings

THE northeast monsoon is upon us once again with its devastating downpours followed by flooding across the north and northeast of the peninsula. The central region, too, has not been spared as most evenings see heavy showers, fallen trees and traffic chaos. Scenes and images of last weekend’s flash floods in Kajang caught many by surprise. The damage to property ran into millions of ringgit. Luckily, there was no loss of life, unlike the handful of drownings caused by rising waters in Kelantan and Terengganu the week before. News that there will be a second wave of floods, accompanied by high tide and high waves, in the east coast states throughout the middle of this month brings little comfort.

That the annual monsoon season coincides with the year-end school holidays means schoolchildren are particularly vulnerable as tragedy is just a slip away. Many parents, guardians and even children are well aware of the dangers that floods bring either through years of reminders or the frequent public service messages aired over the mass media, especially television and radio, and seeing the news. The Department of Irrigation and Drainage (DID) has also set up a website to provide real-time reports and alert the public to impending floods in high-risk areas. Information on the website is live and is updated regularly. Also on test this year is a newly-installed early flood warning and forecasting system which computes weather information and real-time data on the ground to predict impending floods 48 hours ahead. The installation of the system in five river basins will hopefully give people most at risk ample time to get out of harm’s way, and disaster relief agencies fair warning of possible calamity to act hastily and deploy resources where they will be most needed.

However, all the sophiscated equipment, state of the art technology and fancy gadgets can never replace regular and proper maintenance of drainage systems, clearing owaterways of rubbish and debris and general cleanliness of rivers and monsoon drains which are vital in removing excess water. The public, too, have a big part to play. Public education and awareness, civic consciousness and love for our surroundings go a long way to ensure we treat the environment with the respect and care it deserves. The Love Our River campaign initiated by the DID some years ago was an excellent example of getting the community involved in keeping our waterways clean and thriving. Only when we take pride in our surroundings and care for mother nature can we expect to live in a safe environment.