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THIS was how the worst flood in Selangor happened, according to Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s climatologist Prof Dr Fredolin Tangang: the remnant of a tropical depression that had caused floods in the eastern state of Terengganu, Kelantan and Pahang on December 16-17, instead of petering out, gathered strength and continued its move inland towards the Straits of Malacca.
This triggered continuous, heavy rainfall in the west coast, resulting in the worst flood in Selangor during the weekend of December 18 and 19.
The tropical depression was first spotted off Sarawak and the South China Sea on December 15 before moving westward to Peninsular Malaysia.
A tropical depression is formed by air that moves towards lower areas, rises and creates thunderstorms with strong winds. When it travels overland, it is supposed to peter out.
The lesson here is that we can no longer assume the monsoon season of October to March will cause the traditional massive floods only in the east coast states, as it can been seen now it also happened in the west coast of Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Negri Sembilan.
Also, when the remnant of that tropical depression gained strength as it travelled inland instead of petering out, this gave an element of unexpectancy when the volume of rainfall in Selangor on that fateful day in 24 hours was worth the volume of rainfall in a month.
This implies the worst flood in Selangor is an unexpected event when despite everybody was caught with their pants down, it was then politicised by “pants- down” politicians of all hues to whack one another.
A repeat of this incident is possible in the coming days and weeks, as it had happened before some time ago in Sabah, Johor and Penang where it had also triggered worst floods.
Moreover, Malaysia is now facing the northeast monsoon season from October to March, bringing in more monsoon rain. Until March is over, who can say that the worst is over?
Although March is at the tail end of the monsoon season and thus, unlikely for the worst flood to occur in that month, again who can say the worst is over, if we factor in climate change with its frequent and unpredictable rain and flood?
Meanwhile, there should be a rethinking on the approach to flood mitigation by working with nature and treating water as our ally by respecting its natural need to run its course and occupy space.
When rain falls, some portion of it seeps underground being absorbed by the forest and soil. The balance of the rainfall will be water flowing on the surface known as surface run-off, some of which will join the river that will continue its journey to the sea.
The balance of this surface run-off that is neither absorbed by the forest and soil nor join the river will end up at a dead end in freshwater swamps and lakes.
This is nature’s way of making lakes and swamps as a container or natural storage tank to accommodate the need for water to run its course, so that flooding will not occur.