News: Freak thunderstorm ravages Penang

The Star, 14 June 2013

GEORGE TOWN: A freak thunderstorm raged in Penang, causing massive damage to property, uprooting trees and jamming up the Penang Bridge.

A 32-year-old farmer in Ayer Itam also died of a heart attack after suffering a shock when a tree fell near him while he was out on an evening walk.

Nine people were injured, two of them seriously, as the effects of the storm were felt all over the state at 6.45pm yesterday.

One of the worst scenes was in Jalan Macalister when a giant telecommunications antenna was ripped off from the top of the 21-storey Menara Umno building.

The 80-foot antenna tower came crashing down several minutes after the storm hit, crushing a lorry and seven cars. Five people were hurt, including the two who were seriously injured.

Penang Welfare, Caring Society and Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said the rescuers at the scene performed CPR on the two who were badly injured.

He said their injuries were believed to be severe.

The damaged lorry was believed to be carrying liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) canisters.

Several people were running helter skelter, seeking cover from the downpour and winds.

Traffic snarls were reported on both the island and mainland, including at the Esplanade, Weld Quay, Jalan Masjid Negeri, Jalan Sungai Pinang, Jalan Datuk Keramat and Jalan Tanjong Tokong as well as the bridge.

The jam at the bridge was caused after a tree fell onto the mainland bound lane, blocking the three lane stretch for several minutes.

The stretch was reopened at about 8.20pm after firemen removed the tree.

State police chief Deputy Comm Datuk Abdul Rahim Hanafi said 23 areas were affected by the storm.

The police were working around the clock with the firemen as well as other government agencies and local authorities to clear the debris caused by uprooted trees and blown apart roofs.

In Butterworth, Seberang Prai Municipal Council president Maimunah Sharif said several trees were uprooted in Bandar Perda, Jalan Kulim and Machang Bubok.

She said the council’s special squad, comprising six emergency response team members, was deployed to help clear the debris.

“This is one of the worst storms ever to have hit the state,” she said.