Bernama, 15 Jan 2015
KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) — “I am from Kemaman, and was among the flood victims, when I returned home during my annual vacation I was forced to move to an evacuation centre at Dewan MPK (Majlis Perbandaran Kemaman or the Kemaman Municipal Council), in this situation I would like to say ‘thank you’ to the government, especially the political leaders who played a big role.
“The best SOP (standard operating procedure), enough food, we had sleeping bags, we had other contributions, children were treated well. I would give a 5 star to all the government agencies which kept on giving us motivation.”
Such was the status given by a flood victim, identified as Kamariah Ismail, in her Facebook account on Dec 29 when the Kemaman district was hit by a major flood, which continued into the first week of this month.
Homemaker Noor Hayati Hassan, 46, acknowledged that the recent flood in Kemaman was not as disastrous as the one that struck the district in 2013.
“In 2013, the water level rose beyond our expectations. Where the recent floods were concerned, we were fortunate that the Drainage and Irrigation Department had issued a warning and notice to us on the high tide and rain.
“So we started making preparations early. Some of my neighbours built shelves high up on the walls, some made scaffoldings… some moved their belongings to the car porch in advance… sofa sets were piled onto the scaffolding, but fortunately the flood was not so bad this time,” she told Bernama.
This time around too Noor Hayati, who lives in Chukai, missed the “opportunity” to see heaps of debris that used to be a usual sight in previous years when the floodwaters receded. The absence of post-flood debris was attributed to the Kemaman Municipal Council’s speedy action in cleaning up the mess.
Suzana Ghazali, 42, who resides at Taman Fikri, was forced to move into her mother-in-law’s house near Gong Pauh after the floodwaters rose up to waist- level.
“But the 2013 floods were worse compared to the recent one. In 2013, I was forced to move to a relief centre at Sekolah Kebangsaan Seri Geliga.
“This time, we were prepared for the floods and we had packed up our essential belongings earlier. The flood management was also better this time because we were informed earlier, and the state government and other authorities involved had also made their own preparations,” she said.
FLOOD DISASTER MANAGEMENT
What was so special and unique about Kemaman district’s flood management plan that earned it the Gold Standard benchmark?
After attending a briefing on the Kemaman District 2014 Flood Management Plan on Dec 31, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced that the district’s flood management plan would become the model for the standard operating procedure (SOP) for flood management in flood-hit areas.
According to the Dec 31 briefing, preparations had begun as early as April 2014 with the formation of a flood disaster committee and identification of 69 relief centres.
The district authorities had coped with the situation by setting into operation the methodologies prescribed for use before the floods, during the floods and after the floods, all based on the worst-case scenario.
Among the prescribed pre-flood methodologies were flood awareness programmes conducted by the National Security Council, which covered basic information on how to cope with floods, flood kits for victims, and information on relief centres.
The pre-flood measures also saw the National Youth Skills Institute’s campus in Kemaman being named the tactical headquarters for the Malaysian Armed Forces, medical teams and logistics support, as well as serve as a placement centre, cooking area and place to store items donated by the public.
Two helipads and a field from where essential items could be despatched to the victims were also provided.
The flood simulation process, among others, tested the readiness of the secretariat, receipt of essential items, registration of victims, distribution of goods to victims, shelters for the victims and food management.
By working closely with telecommunications companies like Celcom Axiata Bhd, Maxis Bhd, DiGi.Com Bhd and Telekom Malaysia Bhd, efforts were taken to raise their equipment at their transmitter sites in Bukit Mentok and Chukai to above the water level so that the communications system remained effective during floods.
The availability of permanent and mobile generator sets, cell on wheels (COW or portable mobile cellular site that provides temporary network and wireless coverage in locations where cellular coverage is minimal or compromised), walkie-talkies and additional logistics equipment comprising 34 boats from the state government and 17 boats from the Kemaman Parliamentary constituency all helped to smoothen the disaster management operations.
The sharing of up-to-date information on the floods among those affected by the floods via WhatsApp and Telegram also contributed to turning the Kemaman district’s flood management plan into a success story.
DURING THE FLOODS
During the duration of the floods, meetings on the coordination of the various operations were held daily at 8.30pm.
Seven-day supplies of food and drinks were also despatched to each flood relief centre.
While efforts to rescue flood victims were given top priority, steps were also taken to ensure that the various relief centres were equipped with enough mats, blankets, sarongs, gas cylinders and power banks. A total of 12,000 sleeping bags were also made available.
Other organisations and agencies such as the Social Welfare Department, Community Development Department (Kemas), Information Department and the Kemaman District Youth Council, as well as political parties, also came forward to offer their services to the flood victims at the relief centres.
After the floodwaters receded, damages to public property such as bridges, buildings and roads, and private property such as houses and cars were assessed.
The various district offices were given the task of centralising and managing all the contributions and donated items, such as daily essentials.
One week after the last relief centre was closed, a post-mortem of the flood management operations was carried out and proposals were presented to bring about further improvements.
The authorities, on the whole, concluded that the floods that hit the Kemaman district in 2014 came within control.
Out of the 69 relief centres that were identified, 67 were utilised to house a total of 32,963 flood victims, against their maximum capacity of 40,000.
Based on the experience gained during the floods that hit Kemaman, there were proposals to the authorities to speed up the implementation of flood mitigation schemes and improve the drainage system in the district, as well as help repair damaged roads and upgrade the facilities at relief centres.