Tuesday, March 28

Wan Junaidi describes last Saturday’s 300mm downpour as ‘abnormal’


KUCHING: The heavy downpour that caused flash floods in the city and landslides in Serian division on Saturday has been described as an ‘abnormal’ occurrence.

Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Dato Sri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the 300mm of rainfall recorded since 6am on Saturday morning was too huge and unforeseen.

“Not even an advanced flood mitigation system like KL Smart Tunnel can handle more than 200mm of rainfall. This was 300mm, and so it was beyond the capacity of any drainage system in Kuching,” he said yesterday.

As such, he welcomed the suggestion made by Housing Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg for a meeting to be held within the next two weeks involving the government, local councils, relevant agencies and experts to find long-term solutions to the flash flood problem.

Wan Junaidi nonetheless acknowledged that the drainage system in Kuching had not been well coordinated.

“I applaud the suggestion for discussions to involve the four local councils namely Kuching City North Commission (DBKU), Kuching City South Council (MBKS), Padawan Municipal Council and Samarahan District Council. We need to coordinate the drainage system. Some drains may be blocked, not big enough and not linked. The capacity of the drains must be consistent with the expected rainfall during normal circumstances but then again yesterday’s (Saturday) rainfall was under abnormal circumstances,” said Wan Junaidi.

He went on to say that the current unusual weather pattern was linked to global warming, and he recalled that abnormally high rainfall also caused major floods that hit Kelantan and Terengganu in December 2014.

Kuching folks had a rude shock on Saturday when flash floods inundated many parts of the state capital following heavy downpour that started from the wee hours until around 10am.

The state police headquarters and the Sarawak General Hospital were not spared from the flood which eventually subsided in the afternoon.

Meanwhile, Infrastructure Development and Communications Minister Dato Sri Michael Manyin said landslides and road damages due to the floods and heavy rainfall could cost the government a lot of money.

He said that during the wet season in December 2014 and January 2015, Public Works Department (JKR) spent about RM100 million to repair roads damaged by the floods and landslides.

Based on a meeting with JKR and Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) on Wednesday, he said an early estimate of expenditure was RM40 million to RM50 million but he conceded this could be more when the final figure has been ascertained.

“Unlike in December 2014 and January 2015 when the heavy rainfall occurred almost throughout Sarawak, this time the rain was only confined to Kuching, Serian, Padawan, Penrissen and Bau-Lundu.

“There have been 40 landslides recorded, mostly small ones in Padawan and Penrissen,” he said.

He also conceded the volume of rainfall was quite abnormal, saying it had caused flooding in his village Kampung Pichin which happened only once before while two houses there were hit by a landslide.

“The heavy rain also caused a landslide (on Saturday) at Mile 18 of the Serian-Tebedu road which temporarily cut off access to traffic. The road is now passable after clearing work was done immediately. The Serian-Tebedu road is a federal road. It could cost them a few million ringgit to do soil nailing works to prevent future landslides,” he said.