COMMENT | The Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia) recently announced that the public should be prepared for expected average rainfall of around 100mm to 900mm in November this year during the northeast monsoon period and La Nina episodes. for most states in Peninsular Malaysia.
Thus, Malaysians clearly need to prepare for a more severe and destructive flood and prepare carefully before and during that flood to stay safe and survive this calamity.
Apart from the tragic loss of life, the material damage resulting from the floods is indeed a serious threat to the country’s green development agenda.
The 2021 floods in several states led to the evacuation of nearly 20,000 families, with an estimated loss of at least RM20 billion.
Malaysia received accolades nationally and internationally when our medical professionals and experts handled Covid-19 so well, keeping cases in triple digits and deaths in double digits.
Then came the Sabah state by-elections in September 2020 even though the Ministry of Health (MOH) had strongly advised against holding elections. This advice was ignored and the electoral machinery was set in motion to organize the polls.
It was then that daily cases of the virus in Malaysia began to soar as voters and politicians flew back and forth between Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah for the ballot box.
Ironically, this event triggered the escalation of Covid-19 cases to five figures and three-digit deaths.
Storm/Flood Destruction Stats
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Atlas of Mortality and Economic Losses from Extreme Weather, Climate and Water Conditions over a 50-year period (1970-2019) highlighted that weather, climate and Water-related disasters accounted for 50% of all disasters, 45% of all reported deaths and 74% of all reported economic losses.
The WMO further highlighted that among the top 10 disasters, the hazards that led to the highest human losses during the period were droughts (650,000 deaths), storms (577,232 deaths), floods (58,700 deaths) and extreme temperatures (55,736 deaths). .
The U.S. National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that more deaths occur each year from flooding than from other thunderstorm hazards and pointed out that the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that more than half of all flood-related drownings occur. when a vehicle is driven through dangerous floodwaters and the second highest percentage of flood-related deaths are due to walking in or near floodwaters.
The main reason is that people tend to underestimate the strength and power of water.
As MetMalaysia has sent out warnings of thunderstorms and floods including flash floods hitting Malaysia, this signals grave danger to Malaysians who are required to travel in their own private cars, public transport or even walk to polling centers to vote. flood strike during the 15th general election.
Unfortunately, politicians have again ignored this grave reality for the benefit of their political ambitions.
While Sabah state elections had escalated Covid-19 infections and deaths, will the staging of GE15 amid the terrible monsoon season increase Malaysia’s death toll from floods and storms at the end of the year?
Some recommendations for Malaysia
Upon dissolution of Parliament, an interim government (composed of the incumbent government) is expected to take over to govern the country with limited authority, including no new legislation to pass and no new policies for ministers to sign.
However, the Secretary General of the Government will continue to lead the civil service. Given the impending storm and expected flooding soon and as past records have shown that Malaysia was ill-prepared for the December 2021 floods, we call on the caretaker government to develop new and effective policies and programs to build the country’s disaster management capacity.
The campaign period being the period between the date of nomination and the date of the vote, this means that these activities will be organized during the period coinciding with the floods of the second wave, more destructive.
Thus, we call on the caretaker government to allocate and appoint sufficient, capable and experienced manpower and experts to organize and support disaster management efforts to ensure that the impending disaster will be well managed.
Political parties and their staff must obtain the latest information from the competent authorities regarding areas at risk of flooding in order to avoid organizing campaigns and polls in these risky and dangerous areas.
Always adhere to avoiding flood hotspots as advised by Deputy Director General of National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma) at the National Climate Forum recently.
In 2019 and 2020, the New South Wales SES launched its Floods. The risk is Real flood awareness campaign in the region. The campaign personalizes the message by using billboards with local landmarks showing that flooding may occur in that specific area.
This campaign also incorporates interactive flood mapping and augmented reality to show people what can happen in the event of a flood. Thus, in addition to the political parties’ emphasis on putting up posters and billboards to introduce their candidates, efforts should also be made to put up billboards with dots local landmarks showing that flooding may occur in that particular area and location.
Many international organizations responsible for disaster management, such as those in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, have sent out alerts about what to do before, during and after floods to guide their citizens on appropriate and timely actions and responses to improve their safety and survival. .
The the caretaker government should give similar priority with the support of Nadma, local and state agencies as well as the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia disseminate what should and should not be done during these times through as many communication channels and languages as possible.
It has been recognized globally that the highest number of flood deaths are attributed to driving in flood waters, followed by deaths from walking in and near flooded areas. A real-life example, the CDC has warned that floodwaters can pose a drowning risk to anyone, regardless of their ability to swim. Shallow, fast-moving water can be deadly, and even shallow standing water can be dangerous for young children.
The CDC advises to always follow warnings about flooded roads and not to drive in flooded areas because cars or other vehicles will not protect you from floodwaters as they can be swept away or stall in moving water.
Autocar India advises drivers to check Google Maps, talk to people on the road, follow traffic updates on social media or radio, be alert while driving, stay clear of roads flooded and to find alternative routes
The Road Safety Authority (RSA) advises if the road ahead is flooded, choose an alternate route and do not attempt to cross it. Flooded roads that seem shallow might be deeper than you think
New York Times reported that Gordon Giesbrechta University of Manitoba professor who has studied drownings and human responses to extreme environments estimated that approximately 350 to 400 people drown in their cars each year in the United States. and Canada after their vehicle fell into a body of water or was stranded in a flood.
He urged people to get out of their vehicles as soon as possible, saying there could be very little time before the water becomes inescapable. A swept away vehicle could also overturn, making escape virtually impossible. “At the end of the day, if the car stalls in the water, get out and onto the roof.
The United States Security Council has recommended that if you find yourself in your car during a flood or flash flood, avoid large puddles of soil over water, and, if necessary, leave your car and seek higher ground on foot.
If you are out of your vehicle, do not stand in moving water, if possible, as as little as six inches of moving water can knock a person over.
The council also advised drivers to beware of downed power lines, which will make flooding deadly.
Thus, the government should prepare and provide posters, TV and radio advertisements, alerts, press articles and text messages to highlight such dangers such as those advocated by the CDC, Smart Driving UK and Autocar India to include the information.
SHERIFFAH NOOR KHAMSEAH AL-IDID SYED AHMAD IDID is an innovation and nuclear advocate at Alumna Imperial College, University of London, UK.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.