For many people, the final quarter of the year ushers in a festive and year-end holiday season. In Malaysia, it also marks the beginning of the monsoon season. And with comes heavy torrential rains and devastating flash floods.
Once considered to be ‘one-every-100-year’ events, flash floods during the monsoon season have become more frequent in recent years. In 2021, the Klang Valley experienced one of the worst floods in recent history on December 17 and 18, after two-day continuous rainfall, followed by (minor) floods on March 7 and April 25, 2022.
2021 also saw a total of 121 landslide incidents being reported nationwide during the north-east monsoon (MTL) 2021/2022 based on the latest report by the Department of Mineral and Geosciences (JMG).
As you prepare yourselves to face the coming months of rain and flooding, be sure to look out for the following things to ensure your safety during this dangerous period.
#1: If You’re Stranded On Flooded Roads
Rising floodwaters are a common problem that drivers must face. And you are unlucky, you may find yourselves stranded on an inundated road. If you ever find yourselves in such a situation, be sure to follow this guideline:
- Don’t try to start your car
Your first instinct may be to start your car to test if it is still working. Avoid this as starting the car can wreak havoc on the engine and damage it beyond repair.
- Determine how high the water reached
If you left your car parked and came back and found it partially submerged, determine the level the water reached by looking for a water line on the interior or exterior of the car. If water breached only the lower door sill, it may be still safe to start the car and drive off.
- Check oil and air cleaner
If water gets into the air filter or engine oil, you should avoid starting the engine. Call a tow truck to tow your car to your mechanic.
- Check all other fluids
Muddy water can get into power steering, brake, clutch and coolant reservoirs. Check these fluids to ensure the water has not seeped into them, causing further damage to the car.
- Check all electrical system
Once you have determined that it is safe to start your engine, check all electrical components; headlights, turn signal, power locks and everything else to conclude the extent of the damage you may face.
- Remove external debris surrounding your car
After you have come to a decision that it is safe to start your car and go on your merry way, check the surrounding area of your car, some debris may have been lodged around the underbody, wheels and breaks.
- Dry out your car’s interior
Open the doors and air out your interior. Muddy water can leave a foul stench that can stick to the interior for months, so you may want to remove the carpet and seats and have them cleaned at the local car wash.
- Check if you have flood insurance
Check your insurance policy to see if flood is covered. Standard car insurance policies usually do not cover floods.
#2: Is your house at risk of flooding?
If you live in a flood-prone area (especially in East and West Malaysia, which often receives some of the worst floodings), it will be good to prepare yourself so that will not be caught unaware and lose your valuables. Follow these steps to ensure the safety of yourself, your family and your belongings.
- Stay up to date
Keep tabs on the latest meteorological news through your TV, computer, radio or mobile phone. If you live in a visible range of water sources like rivers, streams, lakes or drainage channels, keep a safe distance and observe them closely for any signs of overflowing when rain falls.
Get the latest update on floods and road closures via http://bencanaalam.jkr.gov.my/, Twitter LLMinfotrafik and the National Disaster Crisis Centre (NDCC) hotline at 03-8064 2400.
- Prepare your homes
Move all of your most important belongings to the highest floor of your house. And be sure to disconnect all electrical appliances and turn off the main switch, to avoid electrifying the water. If you are living in a single-storey unit, put all electrical appliances on raised furniture and stack up your belongings to reduce floor contact.
Waterproofing your valuables with plastic bags or covers will help protect them against flood damage.
It will also be a good idea to insure your house against flood damage.
- Prepare an emergency supply kit
An emergency supply kit is a good investment, especially if you live in a flood-prone area. Be sure to pack enough for at least 3 days, as you will never know when the authorities will reach you.
Here is a checklist of items you will need for your emergency supply kit:
- Clean water
- Mosquito repellent creams
- First aid bandages and cotton swabs
- Healing ointments
- Non-perishable food items (eg. canned food and ready-to-eat meals)
- Battery-backed emergency light
- Extra set of clothes and socks
- Run to safety
Flood waters can rise surprisingly quickly, so you have to think and move quickly if heavy rainfall is happening or expected. Sometimes you may even be forced to forgo your belongings or vehicles in order to get to safety quickly.
It will be good to contact an emergency shelter or relief group so that they will be able to accommodate you and your family in the event that you have to leave your home.
Avoid crossing gushing water if you can as it will be difficult to gauge how deep it is. Finally, try to keep your children and pets out of the water as much as possible.
In order of evacuation priority, get the oldest and youngest members of the family, pregnant women or persons with disabilities out of the area first – preferably before rain falls.
- Return home safely
Only return home once the authorities give you the go-ahead. Returning home prematurely may put you in danger.
Stay away from downed electrical lines and flooded areas, and be on the lookout for structural damages caused by the flood. Keep an eye out for snakes and other dangerous animals such as crocodiles or monitor lizards.
Don’t turn your electricity back on even after the floodwaters have receded. Always call an electrician to examine the damage and repair it if need be.
Finally, take some photos of your damaged property for documentation purposes. This is especially useful if you have flood insurance coverage.
#3: Watch out for diseases
Floodwaters can carry all manner of infectious water-borne diseases, ranging from something as minor as conjunctivitis to more serious conditions like respiratory tract infections, leptospirosis and dengue.
Here are some diseases that you have to look out for during and after floods:
>> It is an infection that results in intestinal inflammation. This causes diarrhoea that is mixed with mucus and blood. It spreads through contact with food or water that has been tainted with infected faecal matter.
>> It is mostly caused by the Shigella bacteria, although it can also be caused by other types of bacteria or amoebae/parasites.
>> Young children are usually the ones to get infected as they lack awareness about proper hygiene.
>> Among its symptoms are fever, abdominal pain, loose stools mixed with blood and mucus, and vomiting. These symptoms usually last three to seven days, after which the patient recovers.
>> If the patient does not recover, he/she will have to go on antibiotics. Increasing water consumption is an absolute must in order to prevent dehydration.
>> Cholera is another example of an intestinal infection. It is easily transmissible by food or water and is caused by the Vibrio cholerae bacteria. This disease results in severe diarrhoea, which, in turn, causes dehydration. In extreme cases, it can even lead to death.
>> Its main symptom is watery stools that can occur a few hours up until five days after exposure. At times, however, a person can be infected, but have no symptoms.
>> Dehydration needs to be treated promptly and includes oral rehydration salts and intravenous (IV) fluid replacement. These are the mainstay of treatments for diarrhoea.
>> This bacterial infection is caused by the Salmonella bacteria. Common symptoms include fever, diarrhoea and stomach cramps. It is also known as typhoid fever.
>> Common sources of infection are contaminated food or water, and exposure to infected animal faeces, which are very likely to happen in any flood situation.
>> Important treatments include early antibiotic therapy, which comes in oral form for mild disease and IV injections for severe infections.
>> One unique feature of salmonellosis is the ability of the carrier to infect others without knowing it. A person may not have any symptoms, but can still spread the bacteria to those they come in contact with. This is why those whose work involves handling food have to be vaccinated with a typhoid vaccine prior to employment here.
Here are a few things to keep in mind in order to avoid any of the infections above:
- Ensure a clean water supply.
- Check the source of donated food – or any food – and when it was prepared.
- Maintain clean and sanitary toilets and bathing facilities.
- Encourage breastfeeding for babies to avoid hygiene issues related to bottle use.
- Frequently wash your hands with soap and use an alcohol hand rub if water and soap are not easily available.
- Cover and treat cuts or wounds properly to avoid infection.
- Avoid swimming or playing in floodwaters as it increases the risks of getting water-borne infections, drowning and encountering wild animals such as snakes and lizards.
- Lastly, wear gloves, boots, a face mask and a face shield when you are cleaning up after a flood so that you don’t accidentally get smeared or splashed with the tainted flood water or mud.
#4: Contact these relief organisations for help and shelter
Most times during an emergency or disaster, people scramble to find help. Be prepared with these numbers because you, or a friend or family member may need it.
Contact these organisations for help before or during flood emergencies:
- Majlis Perbandaran Klang 03-3374 8845
- Majlis Bandaraya Shah Alam 03-5522 2787
- Majils Perbandaran Kuala Langat 03-3182 2566
- Hospital Tengku Amuan Rahimah 03-3323 9478
- Pejabat Kesihatan Daerah Klang 03-3323 9554
- PDRM Klang Selatan 03-3372 2222
- PDRM Klang Utara 03-3291 3344
- Jabatan Bebajikan Masyarakat 03-3341 3703
- Jabatan Kerja Raya 03-3371 4040
- Jabatan Pengairan & Sailran Selangor 03-3371 2464
- Angkatan Pertahanan Awam 03-3371 0820
- Pusat Kawalan Bencana Negara (NDCC) 03-8064 2400
Other organisations offering help, shelter and assistance:
- Thomson Hospital Kota Damansara +60 3 6287 1111
- Dewan Pangsapuri Anggerik and Dewan PPR Hicom
- Selangor Library +603 5519 7667
- Sebelah Mata Studio
Explore our sources:
- A. Yeo (2022) Will Kuala Lumpur become the next flooding city like Jakarta?. Emir Research. Link.
- Bernama (2021) Nadma: 121 landslides recorded in Malaysia during north-east monsoon 2021/2022. Malaymail. Link.
- What should you do if your car becomes trapped in a flash flood? (2017) New Straits Times. Link.
- N. Wong (2022) 5 life-saving tips when faced with a flood. FMT. Link.
- 8 Essential Tips on How to Stay Safe During the Rainy Season (n.d.) Zameen Blog. Link.
- Dr M. Shahruddin (2022) With floods come infectious diarrhoeal diseases. The Star. Link.