Penang residents recount terror of worst floods to hit state

Penang residents recount terror of worst floods to hit state

02:41
Almost 80 per cent of Penang island were hit by floods over the weekend. The flood has claimed seven lives so far and more than 6,000 people have been evacuated.

GEORGE TOWN: It was a terrifying weekend for many residents in Penang after the island was battered by unusually strong winds and rain on Saturday (Nov 4)

Many had never before experienced the typhoon-like strong winds that howled into the night as incessant rain pelted the island for 15 hours from midday.

"I never thought this could happen in Penang," said Patrick Chee, a retiree who lives in a high-end condominium in Tanjung Bungah.

"The wind was howling unusually loud, but I managed to fall asleep after midnight. When I woke up the next morning, I found a giant sinkhole right in front of my condo - the roads have cracked."

 While some residents have vacated the condo in landslide-prone areas, he has chosen to stay put for now.

Most parts of George Town, the state capital, were submerged in thick, muddy water and traffic ground to a halt as roads were cut off. Elsewhere, there were fallen trees and landslides.

"I was terrified, I told my family to stay at home and not to come out until the rain had stopped," said housewife Siti Norma.

Almost 80 per cent of Penang island were hit by floods over the weekend. The flood has claimed seven lives so far and more than 6,000 people have been evacuated.

As the water receded on Monday, residents began the grueling task of cleaning up their houses and getting their lives back in order, while the municipal council worked hard to unclog the 100-year-old drainage system at the world heritage site.

Municipal council workers busy unclogging drains in Georgetown. (Photo: Melissa Goh)

"There is mud everywhere, this is the worst flood we have experienced in decades," said Madam Lim, whose family has been cleaning their house since Sunday.

With the meteorological services department forecasting more rains in the days ahead, she and other Penang residents are deeply concerned about returning floods.

HOSPITAL FLOODED

Nearly 100 mothers and their babies were forced to move to higher floors after the neonatal ward at Penang's general hospital was inundated by floodwaters.

"The ward was severely flooded like a giant swimming pool," said 50-year-old security guard Sobri Chew Abdullah. He added that it was worse than a tsunami that hit the island’s coastal area a decade ago.  

The unprecedented storm on Saturday also left a trail of destruction island-wide.

 Prime Minister Najib Razak has urged all sides not to politicise the floods and focus instead on helping victims to get back on their feet.

"It is not about politicising the issue," said Bukit Bendera MP Zaidil Johari. “There was very little warning of a storm that was so unprecedented of a scale we have never seen before. This is based on logic - there must be some sort of earlier warning so we could have been better prepared."

While the damage to the island has yet to be ascertained, much of the relief efforts are now focused on the mainland in Butterworth where thousands have been evacuated.

Source: CNA/ec

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