Home Environment Climate change Penang’s nightmare: The morning after…

Penang’s nightmare: The morning after…

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And so it has come to pass… reports of damage all over after a relentless overnight storm battered Penang. Near Straits Regency, behind Surin, in Tanjung Bungah, a dangerous road has collapsed.

How safe are such road and retaining walls, when water pressure builds up on the slopes? This is the same site that had a landslide in 2014. Back then someone had noticed that the angle of the slope was vertical or about 90 degrees. Nearby residents said that when it rained, water gushed all over. Someone even reported the matter to MBPP.

When the landslide hit Penang further east on 21 October, I reported that another nearby resident had expressed concerned about the sound of a waterfall at this spot near Surin.

“People walk here morning and evening,” said the resident. “(The site is) disguised and hidden by bushes. There is a big waterfall here. We can hear gushing water.”

What happened to those expert engineers and consultants who want us to believe that hill-slope development in Penang these days is safe and it is not a ticking time bomb? Please-lah. People’s lives are at stake.

And another landslide near the site of an ongoing property development project:

Here you can see a gaping wound above the site of the recent landslide, which claimed 11 lives:

This is near the site of the proposed Tanjung Bungah-Batu Ferringhi paired road. Someone counted up to five landslides in the area:

Do they still want to build the paired road on the hills from Batu Ferringhi to Tanjung Bungah? And the RM8bn six-lane Pan Island Link highway that will hug the hills from the north to the south of Penang Island? God help us.

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Meanwhile, the media are focusing almost entirely on the flooded streets, ignoring the fact that a significant volume of the water is coming from surface run-off from cut or concretised hill slopes, the water and debris then accumulating downstream in raging torrents, spilling over river banks. Even the tiny brook along Brook Road burst its banks while nearby at the Turf Club, the hill-sides have been cut, concretised and tarred for property development.

During Penang Forum 8, Penang Forum’s Dr Kam Suan Pheng highlighted how Air Itam River, which is met by Waterfall River (Sungai Air Terjun), and Jelutong River further downstream have been practically strangled. The river reserves have been encroached upon by property development; so is it any wonder when the water overflows onto the roads?

And what’s happening to our ferries?

And this looks like the Seberang Jaya roundabout underpass this morning:

Looks more like Venice to me. At this rate, we should have gondolas as a form of public transport!

Tremendous hardship all over Penang as so many people’s homes are messed up. Even those living in high-rise apartments have had to deal with strong winds and rain battering their windowpanes and flooded balconies overflowing into their homes.

Full credit to those who are helping out with the victims, bertungkus-lumus.

So how many months of rainfall was it in a single day? Get used to it. Can anyone – apart from Trump – doubt that climate change is upon us? How about checking out this Aliran talk on Climate Change on Tuesday, 21 November?

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The federal government should give Penang whatever is due for flood mitigation – and then some. It would be scandalous, unconscionable and outrageous to withhold any funds that could ease the people’s suffering.

Unfortunately, flood mitigation projects are just remedial measures and can only go so far, as pointed out in Penang Forum 8 exactly a week ago.

Over-development (unsustainable development), hill-slope degradation and the paving over of permeable surfaces are among the causes of flooding.

Can you imagine – the state government has increased the maximum density allowed more than four-fold in the last decade – from 30 homes per acre to 128 homes per acre last year (180 homes per acre for low-cost homes) – a move which must have delighted the developers.

Who increased it – and on what legal basis? For instance, under the Penang Structure Plan, a legally enforceable document, Tanjung Bungah is allowed a maximum density of 15 homes per acre only. But then we saw plans for 980 homes in two 50-storey towers. How was this done?

What happened to the detailed Penang Island Local Plan, which was approved by the full council of the MPPP in early 2008 under the previous BN administration and then endorsed later that year (with minimal changes) by the MPPP under the new Pakatan administration? Why was it never put up on public display for feedback and then gazetted? Who held it back? This is something that the state commission of inquiry must look at.

Has the Penang Structure Plan, now being reviewed, taken into account climate change? If not, it should be sent back to the drawing board. Seriously.

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This blog tried hard over the last decade to warn that we should go easy with rampant property development and hill-clearing, that we should minimise the pouring of concrete and asphalt on our green spaces. Penang Forum and other concerned groups and individuals tried too. But mostly our calls fell on deaf ears.

We too must share some responsibility. Some of us have paved the gardens we were fortunate to have in our homes. In our places of worship, schools and offices, almost every single green space we might have, we want to pour cement on it or put up a new structure.

We clamour for road-widening, narrowing the space for the roots of trees to breathe and anchor themselves, as the trees get wedged between drains on one side and roads on the other. When are roads get congested, rather than considering public transport as a viable option, we expect more new highways.

Hopefully some lessons would be learned – that we cannot go on at this pace of frenzied property development (especially given that the Penang population is increasing only minimally), that we should protect our hill slopes, green spaces and natural habitat which can help absorb rainwater and surface run-off.

If not, the consequences could be even more dire.

Thanks to all those whose photos I have used.

Please help to support this blog if you can.

75 COMMENTS

  1. My house in Seberang Perai Utara flooded – caused by Sg Muda bursting it’s banks. So now going to blame the Kedah govt? Stop the blame game. If you want to do something – join the volunteers and help restore and clean-up
    All you arm chair experts – just shut up and stop adding fuel to our misery

    • Ulu mudah has bigger deforestation and yet pg lang go and blame tanjong bunga. Mana ada system? Pg lang only think tanjong bunga is centre of the world just because it is the only place in the world has hills higher than ulu mudah. China hokkien is bigger than pg hokkien.

  2. The likes of Surin, Coastal Towers and Straits Regency were built from cut-down hills. Need I say more?

  3. Dear Anil,
    thanks for your coverage and all those who contributed. I went through Typhoon Hato in Macao with wind speeds of 200 km/hr. Windows blew and rain poured in. Terrifying. Many lost their lives in underground carparks. A lesson to be learned. Land shortage forced development of underground but should never be in flood prone areas. Thoughts and prayers go out to all in Penang who are hit with floods and their homes in need of repair. As for the slopes the people should petition for the stoppage of huge condo tower blocks. One sincerely hopes this time it is a wakeup call for those in Penang to press the government to heed sense and do checks on slopes. Continued vocal and written call for Penang Govt. to take stock and the lives of its citizen on board.
    Mother Nature one respects at all times. Blessings to all
    Rigg

    • How to compare macao with penang? Macao is subject to possible typhoons 3 to 5 times a year. Macao is small place hardly any hills. As small place, sea water can easily swarm the area. See how often sun mah chai road flood. Low depression cause rise in sea level

  4. Whatever it is you can’t say that cutting Hills and uncontrolled deforestation did not make matters worse

    • Under Bee End, there are so much logging and cutting until there is no logs to export. Now forced to export sand to big big continent like India. Yet pg forum dare not to tell Bee End off with so much clearance. Remember the advert? Lagi Satu project?

  5. Shocking photo of the road and the porch of one of the town houses collapsed.

    When I saw the photo of the land slide in Tanjung Bungah just beside the access road, I feared that something like what happened in front of these town houses could happen and if that vertical retaining wall collapses, those town houses could well come crashing down. Hopefully, they are not occupied and I guess they may have to be demolished.

    Any one fancy buying one of those town houses for cheap?

  6. Not just private homes and houses are affected but companies , factories , schools etc as well.
    A truly caring and concerned govt would immediately offer (at least),
    0% GST , free use of the Penang Bridge,Penang port and Penang Airport for a certain window of time.
    Instead of just shouting and jeering inside and outside of Parliament .
    A lot of folks are going to replace their damaged furniture , fittings and repairs.
    A lot of logistic and supplies are going into Penang.
    Scores would apply urgent leave from work.
    I guess najib will just smile for the media with his arms folded.
    Thats politics.

    • Hello Mr Pana,

      I trust that the federal are kinder than the state government. They will assist you all despite you never voted for them.

      The question is “Do you not feel betrayed by your state government or you just simply wants to hang to that lie that they are better than BN?”.

      All this nightmare is caused by insatiable GREED from the state government.

      BN may afford to eat more.

      • Rakyat is more kind as we pay taxes and pay their salary. But they are asking for more or increase in taxes.

  7. Anil, you missed one big landslide:
    in Penang Hill just below the summit level to the far right of the hill station.
    It looks like a Devil’s tongue, my estimate to be 100ft long. Nearby to the left are 2 bungalows.
    You can only see the entire length from any high rise in Air Itam, Farlim or Paya Terubong.
    I will try to photoshoot tomorrow given no mist cover & share with readers.
    This is shocking!

  8. Time to stop pointing fingers first,even area where no development,there was first time flood due to Tphoon Damey and high tide last night. I regret some Penangites and outsiders commented as if they are GOD. Please be considerate in these difficult times. If you want to make nasty comments do it after crisis. My house also first time affected due to these unprecedented thunder storm and high tide. I can see the river vomiting rubbish thrown by residents. Even in Sungai Petani were my friend staying first time flooded, so whom to blame? PLEASE BE CONSIDERATE EVEN IF YOU CAN’T HELP INSTEAD OF USING KEYBOARD TO CONDEMN! THANK YOU!

    • Typhoon and high tide bring muddy water from Vietnam meh?

      Ah Chin ah, people who love concrete do not understand that the earth soaks up water and if you concretise everything, the water cannot go down so it goes up and up lo, so your hall gets flooded, and then your bedroom gets flooded and then your roof.

      And, if you want to replace with sophisticated drains, then you get rubbish come into your house lo because your neighbours love throwing rubbish into the drain.

      Floods in mainland and SP are again due to overdevelopment. i challenge you to name me a development that has a decent green park and not a concrete display.

      • Spin again. Flood is result of excessive down rain fall. Even in remote of Australia and gets flooded. How much water can the ground absorbed.
        How much Bee End spend flood mitigation projects? They have Smart tunnel, and in Batu a few big detention ponds to store up surface runoff from upstream and they have very big pumps to pump out water. Tell us Bee End built this in penang. KL used to get flood often. Water in these rivers are also muddy.

    • The CM commented on Kelantan’s flood as if he was God. Earn him the nickname Tokong.

      You cannot expect everybody are kind to you when you have not been one all this time.

      Karma pays in CASH.

  9. Penang DOES NOT deserve any money from federal gomen for flood mitigation when the state gomen spent RM305 million for the Penang tunnel feasibility study alone. How stupid is that? Instead, go ask Tokong to ask his property developer buddies to fund the flood mitigation la!

    Also good to know that Ramkarpal Singh just got scolded by one of the residents affected by the flood. Bagus la tu. Tengok korang nak berlagak dan biadap sombong mcm itu P Ramasamy lagi.

    http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2017/04/02/cm-penang-undersea-tunnel-feasibility-study-cant-proceed/

    • BN money can spend on you but not on metrological and weather reports. What is BN weather station doing? No money and cannot talk with China, Us, Vietnam to get updates and warning? Sleeping and shut down. BN central weather station owes pg lang as why no warning is given.
      Same old approach and admin under BN.

      • Did Metrology Dept give early morning about this heavy rain? So far different reports on this matter.

  10. That was a brand new road just constructed too! Wasn’t smart to continue digging into that massive hill side and water catchment area. Redirecting underground water flow is a bad idea. They (Council n Local Gov) were warned when Surin went up as well. The retaining wall is weak. It is a wonder all of it hasn’t come down.

  11. Dont blame CM Penang. Look at Kedah.. BN govt also same. Different Penang is an island like hong kong so advanced also hit badly. Kedah in mainland was worst hit and not even an island status.

    • Same with the slope which kills workers if properly constructed. There is no rain.

      Same with tides. There are tides please go and fund out why people call king tide and see how often the occur and if rains during king tide, then severe flood occurs

  12. 1. Was there hillside development in 1970/71 when Kuala Lumpur was flooded?
    2. This was the result of a Low Pressure Area which Malaysians, including the Metreological people, dont know about. That is why there was no early warnins from them unlike the Met people in Philippines and Thailand.
    3. Penang, Kedah and Perlis do not have any buffer land to protect it from the open ocean/sea.
    4. Another cause is climate change. There are now typhoons in places where the wasnt and vice vers. Look at Britain that was struck by a typhoon a month ago. The last typhoon in Britain was in 1985
    5. The conclusion is you can stop hill development and this will still happen.
    6. I have lived ib the Philippines and the place where I reside for the last 7 years has been hit typhoons for the first 3 years of my stay. Now no more. Why? Climate change.
    7. The Western nations were giving us warnings about deforestation in the 1980’s but it was not heeded. So whose fault is it?
    In conclusion vote BN and drop PH. You only lose your money !

    • Tropical cyclones/typhoons are heat engines which extract heat energy from the oceans and convert it to the kinetic energy of the storms’ winds. Warm air are less dense than their surroundings. As warmer air rises, low atmospheric pressure area is formed. Thus, the strongest tropical cyclones are expected to get stronger in a world with warmer oceans caused by global warming.

      • Penang is just a tiny red dot smaller than singland to generate low pressure. Hong Kong and macao for centuries have typhoons when they are ulu and undeveloped. Hokkien and guanzhou hot land mass draws in typhoons. The typhoons don’t just stop in Hong Kong and macao. If goes in few hundred kms inland. The typhoons changes course now and then. Hk observatory tracks them and give warning where and where it will hit the city. Here tidak spa attitude by Bee End admin.like third world. Still continue to vote them.

    • Acheh tsunami is orso man created? Recent typhoon hits macao also man created with hong Kong building highrise and deflect the storm to macao?

  13. How much longer to they want to wait? Until all hillslope condos and houses come crashing down one by one?

  14. The photo of the “Ecoworld gallery” is a classic.

    Ferries: As in other cases, the plan is to gradually undermine and eliminate them – at a pace where more and more of those who depend on it switch to alternatives. Remember that under the religion of capitalism, the goal is to eliminate public facilities and services. These hinder private expenditure, debt and profit.

    • One problem is that the many, small, civic associations are trying to tackle the government (to find out info, stop “development”, stop pollution, etc.) on their own. They should unite.

  15. Ask Calvin, why we have statistics? Even coke or Pepsi bottle their drinks giving more or less. Not every bottle has the same level of liquid. Sometimes rain fall in one part of penang island why the other part is dry. One part can be heavy while the other part is dry.
    Murphy law. If things can happen, it will happen. Pg lang win the best shot at goal in world consideration. Can he shoot and achieve 100% all the time?

    • Or if the down pour and wind is within proper guidelines and does not go beyond the guidelines. Also will house owners willing to pay more for heavy duty rainfall? Try asking the insurance if they can compensate?

    • The guidelines did not take into account such high rainfall for long duration with strong wind which is new phenomenon caused by climate change/global warming.

      All of us must ponder if we contribute to global warming with our car exhaust. Drive less, take public transportation. Plant a tree in your neighborhood. Use 1+5 strategy (Wanita MCA way) by influencing 5 other people to take public bus.

      • ‘Plant a tree in your neighborhood’.

        Unfortunately most ground and garden are cemented with concrete for car park purpose due to high car ownership. Less chance for water to seep to the ground.

  16. Those who plan to make short films on Penang catastrophe can have plenty of real non CGI footages today.
    You can make simple movies using your headphones.
    God bless the flood victims.

    • Also blame ferries hits onto the wharf? Very good finger pointing. Why umno also build substandard wharf which cannot withstand ferry impact? Why buy and use understrength mooring lines?

      • If you actually read the article, the author posed a question of what happened to the ferry. He did not blame anyone. The ferry was beached by strong waves and wind. Read it here –
        https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2017/11/05/penang-floods-huge-waves-wedge-440-tonne-ferry-on-dock/
        There was no failure of the mooring lines. If they had failed, the ferry would have broken free and drifted out to sea, not beached ashore. There was also nothing wrong with the wharf.

      • What’s up doc? Writer may not blame everyone but people are so obess and obese everything is hillslope and people does not see the impact of the storm. They think storm affect the hills. But storm is not racist or religion. Hit anything along its path and see how it hits BN ferry.
        Dr, you mean ferry will go out into the sea? You mean pg ferry are not moored at night at the end if the day?
        What are those grey matter under the ferry hull? Seabed debris? Nothing wrong. Please tell the readers what you see and think Doc? You professional is higher than me

      • Hong Kong has a dozen super typhoons every year, much stronger than Penang’s and they have exactly the same ferry. No problems there at all

      • Dr, how are ferries parked at night? Use mooring lines. You mean pg ferry uses very long mooring lines like fishing lines allow ferries to drift far away? I understand in maritime practice ships are moored with bow and spring lines to reduce drift. Otherwise, the gangway and sailors will drop into the sea if the mooring is very long and drift far away.
        Please share your new doctorate research on mooring.

    • Typhoon or semi typhoon storms in phiillpines, China, Japan, Vietnam for hundreds or thousand years ago. Blame urbanisation in those countries?

    • Urban is one thing mate. But this rain came down non-stop without any signs of lightning or thunder,it is beyond our capability to withstand it.

      • Man has made a long way to weather report. Uncle Sam has twister chasers trying to study tornados. But here, we are pokai under Engineer and has no money for meoteology. Or our ENGINEER not bother to gather weather report from planes and ships. Not bother to give warnings. In Hk, the weather station will track the typhoon and if it No 8, all work will stop. Here weather stn is under Bee End. If we don’t vote, we will still live like cave men but surrounding countries move ahead of us.

      • As times go by, man has a better understanding of earthquakes. They can’t fight earthquakes but reduce loss of lives. Earthquakes has p and s waves. One travel faster than the other. They decided to detect the faster wave and warn the people to get down to the street or to take precaution before the actual wave hit the city.
        Our Bee End gomen are not educating the people and give advanced warning system to the people. In acheh, people are warned if any earthquake happen under the Sea and they have to flee to the hills straight away.
        Here where are tax money go with millions of people doing just administration? List to Calvin and shiess advice to vote for independent candidates?

  17. Hillslopes are safe, not ticking time bombs, says expert MBPP Geotechnical Consultancy Unit Adviser Chin Yaw Ming. He said, “hillslopes for development are safe as these are properly designed and endorsed by Professional Engineers with Practicing Certificate (PEPC), who are registered with the Board of Engineers Malaysia (BEM) and have relevant experience in geotechnical engineering.”

    Hahahaha — We already know MBPP spokespersons lack credibility, Now, we know Board of Engineers also lost credibility because a hill land also can say “on observation, it is flat land.”

    Geotechnical Consultancy Unit pula… the stack of cards come crumbling down one by one… which one next? now, CM prayed to God at 3 am in the morning… hahaha

    • Why you continue to stay in houses, work in offices and drive over bridges designed by malaysian engineers? One day they will fail onto you. Start wearing your design body armour. You implement and diy everything. You will pray 6 times a day

      • Can I say it was Engineers prior to DAP so it is safer? I know you may say it is politicized, but then Engineer also must have check and balance. Otherwise crooked engineer will approve for the sake of monetary return.

        What irks us is that the state government which suppose to be the check and balance play to the card of developers. They turned blind and deaf on the warnings given by NGOs and independent parties. They go ahead with project rejected by JAS citing “approval” from the so call “engineers”. So in the end, people got buried.

      • Why we pay taxes and GST For? Bee End employed Paul Low for with 12 billions in pm section? What is Macc doing if there is crooked engr? What is BEM for? the engr who approves take responsibilty. You did not understand the terms of investigation of recent slope slide. They will charge if they person responsible?
        Why suddenly howling wind and over 300mm of rainfall? Cm or nature? Go and charge cm or nature if they blow severe wind and pour down over 300mm of rain. You only visit supermarket? You never see how workers uses. Fire hose to wash market floors? Why fire hose and not bucket of water?

    • Spare some thoughts for the innocent victims. Do not be judgemental on the impact of natural disaster on innocent beings. Pray for their safety instead.

    • Nature’s punishment,and that’s it? No help and no prayers from you for the flood victims? Some Malaysians are so easy to throw blame and cursing.

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