GEORGE TOWN, Nov 6 — Setting aside political differences, the Penang legislative assembly approved today an emergency motion on the weekend storm that devastated the state.
State executive councillor Chow Kon Yeow (DAP-Padang Kota) tabled the emergency motion that called on all agencies to improve and review the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) especially in getting information across, mobilising rescue work and channelling assistance to victims effectively so as to reduce the impact of the disaster on the victims.
The motion also called on all relevant agencies to work together to resolve flood issues in the state with the implementation of an overall flood mitigation project while increasing awareness of the people towards the importance of environment while improving the ability to face any disaster.
“The state legislative assembly offers its condolences to the families of those who perished in the storm on Saturday and Sunday,” he said when reading out the motion this morning.
He thanked all state and federal agencies along with organisations and individuals who had gone down to the ground to help victims of the disaster.
After Chow read out the motion, Speaker Datuk Law Choo Kiang asked if there were any objections against the motion; no one did.
During debate, the first person to express support of the emergency motion was the state Opposition Barisan Nasional (BN) assemblyman for Pulau Betong Datuk Muhammad Farid Saad.
“The disaster affected almost everyone in the state and I fully support this motion in extending our condolences to the affected victims and thanking all agencies who went down to assist the victims,” he said.
Datuk Shah Headan Ayoob Hussain Shah (BN — Teluk Bahang) also thanked all state and government agencies for helping people stranded in the floods.
“I also call on the state to allocate more funding to the Drainage and Irrigation Department and local authorities to deepen the drainage systems so that these will be able to accommodate high water levels,” he said.
Backbencher Wong Hon Wai (DAP — Air Itam) said this is the worst floods to hit the state where areas that have never experienced floods were flooded over the weekend.
“In 50 years, my office has never flooded but this time, the waters went up to one foot high,” he said.
He said his constituency saw some areas, especially Farlim, experiencing flood waters as high as four to five feet.
Wong said there needs to be a multilevel approach on drainage management, floods and urban planning.
“We need to strengthen disaster management in all aspects such as ensuring aid and food goes to relief centres and the management of information so that it reaches those affected,” he said.
RSN Rayer (DAP — Seri Delima) termed the disaster as a “blessing in disguise” as it had inadvertently brought together people of all races, religion and political beliefs to go down to the ground to help those in need.
“It shows our humanity regardless of political affiliations as everyone came together to help,” he said.
Yap Soo Huey (DAP — Pulau Tikus) proposed that relief centres of each district be identified ahead with a signboard outside so that in cases of disaster, victims will know to head direct to the relief centre.
She also said another main problem faced is the distribution of food to victims as many places were not open yesterday and they had issues getting enough cooked food for the victims.
“There should also be kitchens identified with a list of voluntary cooks so that in times of disaster, these kitchens can be opened up and the volunteers called in to prepare food for the victims at relief centres,” she said.
She also agreed that there needs to be a more effective system to relay information to the public.
“We could put up a digital board where the latest information, such as warning of bad weather ahead, is displayed so that everyone knows what is going on,” she said.
In closing, Chow took note of the proposals suggested and said that the Drainage and Irrigation Department will be implementing a flood forecast and warning system.
He said the warning system will be able to alert the public two hours before the floods and the forecast system could give a forecast six hours earlier.
He agreed there is a need to relay accurate information to the public through a proper dissemination system.
“Our Penang alert system still needs to improve as it has its limitations and is web-based,” he said.
He also noted that there needs to be a better management of rescue and relief efforts.
As for calls for aid for flood victims, Chow said he could not decide on behalf of the state government but that the matter will be discussed by the state executive councillors.