Three-hour rain in Penang triggers traffic woes and disruption in hill railway services

Cars driving across a flooded street in Penang on Oct 30, 2016.
Cars driving across a flooded street in Penang on Oct 30, 2016.PHOTO: THE STAR

GEORGE TOWN (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Deepavali celebrations were cut short for many Hindu families after heavy rain swept though many parts of Penang island during the weekend.

Lawyer Dev Kumaraendran said traffic was especially bad in Jalan Masjid Negeri after a flood occurred in the area on Saturday (Oct 29).

"The plastic barricades placed along the road were floating around because of the flood water and this worsened the traffic congestion.

"We were travelling back from George Town to Jalan Masjid Negeri after watching a movie and doing some Deepavali shopping," he said when contacted.

Consumers Association of Penang education officer N.V. Subbarow said Hindus celebrating Deepavali in Penang were angry at the floods but not the rain.

"People who want to visit their friends in the late evening were either stuck at home or on the road due to poor flood management system."

Sungai Air Hitam burst its banks, causing water to spill onto several major roads such as Jalan Masjid Negeri and Scotland Road.

A check on the Public InfoBanjir website of the Department of Drainage and Irrigation (DID) found that the water level at Sungai Pinang was at 2.89m, exceeding the danger level at 6pm on Saturday.

Traffic came to a standstill at several low-lying grounds in the state, with the worst hit being Lebuhraya Thean Teik and Jalan Thean Teik in Bandar Baru Air Itam.

Engineer M.H. Wong, 34, said the water reached knee-level at about 5pm in Lebuhraya Thean Teik.

"I was stuck in a traffic jam in front of All Seasons Place for more than an hour. Traffic has never been bad along this road."

Air Itam assemblyman Wong Hon Wai said firemen were on site to assist traffic and assess the flood situation.

Landslides also occurred within a 50m stretch along the hilly road leading to the Air Itam Dam as well as Bandar Baru Air Itam.

Hikers were told to descend the hill on foot and to leave their vehicles behind on the hill as the road was impassable to traffic.

The Penang Hill funicular train services were also interrupted for several minutes after a tree branch fell on the track. It was removed by firemen and train services resumed.

Floods were also reported in Jalan P. Ramlee, Taman Lumba Kuda and Jalan Paya Terubong,

Major traffic congestion was also seen in Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway following an accident where a car overturned near Bayan Mutiara in Bayan Lepas.

Heavy traffic was also spotted in Lebuh Bukit Jambul, Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah, Jalan Tengku Kudin, Jalan Hamilton, Jalan Bagan Jermal, Jalan Datuk Keramat and Jalan Free School.

State DID, in a statement, said about 600 people from 300 homes were affected by the flood following three hours of continuous rain from 4.30pm in the north-east district of Penang, but there was no evacuation.

"The floods were caused by an unsystematic drainage system," the statement said, adding that the system needed to be upgraded and the developments closely monitored.

Flash floods are becoming a normal occurrence in Penang with the worst being reported in July.

Teluk Bahang residents said that was one of the worst flash floods in recent years, with about 300 houses affected by the rising waters.

A total of 12 flights were rescheduled at the Penang International Airport in Bayan Lepas.

On Oct 18, heavy rain lasting more than two hours coupled with the king tide phenomenon resulted in two areas on the mainland, Kampung Manis, Prai, and Telok Ipil, Nibong Tebal, being inundated by 3.1m of water.

In September, about 45 homes were damaged when it flooded in Kampung Dodol, Kampung Makam, Jalan Singora, Jalan P. Ramlee and Jalan Air Terjun. A 20-year-old Nepali plantation worker was crushed to death after an oil palm tree fell on him during the four-hour rainstorm.