GEORGE TOWN - Malaysia's police and military have been deployed to help Penang after it was inundated with up to 4m of water following an overnight storm that lasted 18 hours until Sunday (Nov 5) morning.
At least four have died due to the storm. Three of them were senior citizens who have been identified as Chew Eng Lean, 78, Amanullah Shabib Kalandir, 75, and Lau Guek Jee, 64, reported The Sun Daily. The fourth victim was a Bangladeshi man who was crushed by a falling tree. One person, a resident of Bukit Tambun, is reported to be missing.
A ferry washed ashore in Butterworth, the main town of mainland Penang, while a landslide-cum-sinkhole tore up a road in front of a row of newly built luxury houses.
The capital of George Town was awash with muddy brown water, as local residents rushed to save their belongings from rising waters in the wee hours of the morning.
Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said he had called Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi at 3.30am for assistance.
"The situation has become more critical. Water is still rising, the wind is still strong, and waters are up to 10 to 12 feet, above roofs in Penang island," he said in a Facebook posting shortly after the call. "(Datuk Seri Zahid) has promised to send the Armed Forces to save Penang island."
In Kuala Lumpur, Prime Minister Najib Razak said the federal government will render assistance to any state facing natural disasters, even if they were governed by opposition parties such as the Democratic Action Party in Penang.
“All this will be coordinated by the National Security Council. We will help the flood victims and also provide aid by determining their needs,” he told reporters.
The Star reported that personnel forces were deployed at 8.30am Sunday to help with rescue and relief operations.
According to Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, the armed forces set up an operations centre at 4.30am Sunday to help with rescue and relief operations.
Dr Zahid, who is also Home Minister, said both military and police personnel began assisting victims at 8.30am.
A resident of George Town Sherilyn Kang told The Straits Times that her family has been unable to sleep all night as they worked to rescue their property.
"The water has still not subsided so we can't clean up yet," she said at 10am, about five hours after rain stopped falling.
She added that this flood was worse than one which hit the northern state in September as "my house has never flooded before and now we have 30cm of water".
"This is the worst in Penang history," she said.
Several flights into Penang were cancelled last night due to the storm and about 2,000 people are now in evacuation centres across the state, which is now littered with fallen trees and debris even in places where there are no floodwaters.
Bus services in the state have also temporarily ceased operations while the Penang Hill funicular train service was also suspended.
Seberang Prai on the mainland was the worst-hit areas with over 1,700 evacuees with the island itself hosting 228 people who had to abandon their homes.
In a press conference on Sunday afternoon, Mr Lim said there was no need to declare an emergency based on discussions with the federal government.
Penang state minister for local government Chow Kon Yeow admitted that RM300 million (S$97 million) worth of projects to improve Penang’s drainage system was not completed yet. As such, it could not handle the intense rainfall, especially due to rubbish and debris clogging up waterways.
By noon, the flood situation had improved slightly, but the bad weather was expected to continue Sunday, according to the Meteorological Department. The department in an update on its Facebook page said continuous rainfall with strong winds were expected in Penang, as well as in the states of Kedah and Perlis.
Meanwhile, the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday said the visit by Britain’s Prince Charles and his wife Camilla to Penang was still expected to proceed, although it was monitoring the weather conditions closely. The royal couple, who are on a week-long tour of Malaysia and are currently in Sarawak, were expected to depart for Penang on Monday.