A Flood Of Incompetence

I am surprised that a former Brigadier General doesn’t know that you cannot simply deploy the military without explicit instructions

Former army Brigadier turned politician, Arshad Raji, seems to like the attention the electronic media has been according him lately, and he speaks about a wide spectrum of issues – from falling for Mahathir’s fake news of the so-called withdrawal of his close police protection, to the management of the floods in Pulau Pinang.

In the latter issue it was as if he was trying to downplay the Deputy Prime Minister and the BN-led Federal Government’s involvement in the management of the floods.  He was right about some of it, though.  Under the National Security Council Directive No.20, when a state emergency is declared following a disaster affecting two districts or more, the State Disaster Management Committee can call for assistance in the form of assets, finance, and other resources on the state level, and limited form of assistance from federal agencies within the state – the police, armed forces, civil defence etc.  This does not require a call to the Deputy Prime Minister at all.

Look at Level II Disaster Management by the State

The State Disaster Management Committee is chaired by the Chief Minister or Menteri Besar while the Chief Executive is the State Secretary.  But what Arshad Raji did not know, or chose to not reveal during his “press conference” was the fact that until now Lim Guan Eng has not declared a state of emergency in Pulau Pinang despite floods inundating four out of five districts in Pulau Pinang namely Seberang Prai Utara, Seberang Prai Selatan, Barat Daya and Timur Laut.

Don’t blame the Federal Government. Tokong himself did not declare a state of emergency

I lived in Pulau Pinang, on the pulau itself for three years and four months in the late 1980s and never once saw floods affecting the state on this level.  The most I would see is pockets of areas in Datuk Keramat and the Green Lane (Jalan Masjid Negeri) – Jalan Air Itam junction near the State Mosque.  Even then you could still pass the areas on your motorcycle.  Having eight deaths because of floods in a year was unheard of (one died earlier in September while seven this time around).

No rain, no floods” seems to be the best of Lim Guan Eng’s quotes pertaining to floods in Pulau Pinang.  This time, the deluge is blamed on a tyhoon that is battering Vietnam, and rightfully so.  Every time a typhoon hits Vietnam, the northern Peninsular states would receive an extra amount of rainfall.  And since 1881, Vietnam has been battered by 68 typhoons excluding the one that has just hit them.  However, the shocking bit is where 119 flash floods have hit Pulau Pinang since 2013!  That is 2.5 flash floods per month for the last four years!

I wonder why this is the case of late?

It does not take an engineer to tell you that when you do excessive hillside developments, the soil cannot absorb the rainwater as the oxidised topsoil would be transformed into a clay-like material.  The run-offs would be washed into monsoon drains, clogging up the roadside gutters and making the storm sewers shallower as silt accumulates at the bottom.  These drains flow out to sea along natural coastlines, which is why monsoon drains act as gravity sewers.  In Pulau Pinang, you can hardly find a natural coastline as most beaches with gradient have been reclaimed, and the gradient tapers off, diminishing the gravity effect.  Storm water therefore does not flow into the sea but accumulates and saturates the flatter grounds causing floods.

But who cares about eight deaths this year due to floods and one last year when you can make money selling condominium units to the rich?  But it is this excessive development by the state government that was voted in by the Pulau Pinang people that is now killing the Pulau Pinang people and have caused untold miseries.

Everyone also knows that when it is the new moon or full moon, tides will be higher than usual, and that makes it harder for storm drains and rivers to flow water out to sea, what more when there is excessive water caused by the backlash of a typhoon.

Phases of the moon for November 2017

You can see that from 1 November 2017 the moon was in an advanced waxing gibbous phase and full moon over Georgetown, Pulau Pinang occured at 12.40am on Saturday, 4 November 2017.  The Malaysian Meteorological Department had issued a series of bad weather warnings for the northern Peninsular states from 31 October 2017, and every day from then on.

Met Department warning for the northern states on 31 October 2017
Met department warning the northern states that the bad weather was going to last at least four days from 1 November 2017
Another Met department warning on 2 November 2017 reminding the northern states that the bad weather was going to last at least four days until 4 November 2017
Another Met department warning issued on 3 November 2017 for the northern states that the bad weather was going to last at least until 4 November 2017

You can see that there was ample warning by the Malaysian Meteorological Department that the weather was going to be bad for four days.  What did Lim Guan Eng or his State Disaster Management Committee do?  Nothing, until it got really bad.  And at 3.00am, Lim Guan Eng became a cry baby and called the Deputy Prime Minister for help, without even declaring a state emergency.

Lim Guan Eng called the DPM for help at 3am on 5 November 2017, five days after the initial warning was issued by the Malaysian Meteorological Department

Where was his State Disaster Management Committee?  Why had they not sat down to make preparations to mitigate the situation?

Lim Guan Eng was quick to point fingers at Kelantan in the aftermath of the disastrous floods at the end of 2014.  He pointing out that corruption and the incompetency of the Kelantan state government, as well as the rampant hillside clearing as the causes of the floods.

Well, we know that there is rampant hillside clearing in Pulau Pinang.  We also know that the Chief Minister was charged on two accounts of corruption, and we also know now that it was the incompetency of the Pulau Pinang State Disaster Management Committee led by Lim Guan Eng himself as the Chairman that had caused the situation to be worse than it should be.

Lim Guan Eng’s government’s incompetence has killed one person in floods last year, 21 people in a landslide this year, and eight people in the recent floods.  This is the government that the Pulau Pinang people have voted in, and the Chief Minister chosen by them.

Pakatan’s promise
Pakatan’s promise
Pakatan’s promise

119 flash floods have occured since the promises above was made.  And Lim Guan Eng’s government is not worried.  Going by the rate the floods are killing people, there won’t be that many people left to complain about the floods – problem solved.