Thursday, December 7

Wong: Govt to probe cause of heavy flow of debris


SIBU: Second Finance Minister Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh promised that the government would thoroughly investigate the cause of the massive flow of driftwood and other debris from the upper reaches of the Rajang River yesterday afternoon.

DISASTROUS: Wong (left) with Tiong monitor the massive flow of debris at Kapit Wharf Terminal.

He described the huge mass of debris as a phenomenon.

“One cannot take nature for granted. I would describe it a calamity as far as river travel is concerned. The velocity and force of the debris going down the river to the South China Sea is truly beyond anyone’s imagination,” he told reporters at Kapit Wharf Terminal in Khoo Peng Loong Road yesterday afternoon.

Wong was accompanied by SMC chairman Datuk Tiong Thai King, deputy chairman Daniel Ngieng and Sibu JKR divisional engineer Vincent Tang.

The moving debris, estimated at about 30 miles from head to tail, was believed to have originated from Putai and Nungan in the upper reaches of Baleh River.

It flowed swiftly on Thursday before it reached here yesterday.  The cause is still not known though there were speculations that it could have something to do with massive flooding in the upper reaches of the Rajang River.

By the time the debris reached here about 1pm yesterday it almost completely covered the Rajang River bank to bank.

There were even talks that one could walk across the river by stepping on the logs.

Passengers at Kapit Wharf were caught off-guard and many Sibu-Kapit trips were either cancelled or postponed as there was no way that an express boat could go through the mess.

Wong, who is also Minister of Environment and Public Health, admitted that the flow of debris could cause serious damage to the ecological system along the Rajang River.

“It’s still too early to determine what steps we will take. We have to put our heads together and see what to do later.”

He said they would look into ways to clear the debris.

“We are fighting against time and hopefully the situation would return to normal in the next few days,” he said. Wong also appealed to boat operators to navigate their boats carefully.

“If possible, try to stay away from the river for the time being and wait for the situation to improve.”