World

Penang's worst floods leave at least 7 dead

18-hour storm forces thousands to evacuate, more bad weather likely

Seven people have died and thousands evacuated as Penang was inundated with up to four metres of water after an 18-hour storm ended yesterday morning.

The state's worst flooding caused its Chief Minister to enlist Malaysia's police and military to help with relief efforts.

At least seven people have died due to the storm, said police.

Five of them have been identified. The remaining two victims are still unidentified, though one of them is believed to be a Bangladeshi man who died when his home was crushed by a falling tree.

One person, a resident of Bukit Tambun, is reported to be missing.

Over 3,500 were evacuated from Penang, with another 2,000 in neighbouring Kedah forced out of their homes.

Winds from the storm - the authorities said these were due to Typhoon Damrey, which killed at least 27 in Vietnam - were so strong that a ferry washed ashore in Butterworth, Penang, while a landslide-cum-sinkhole tore up a road in front of a row of newly built luxury houses on the island.

The state capital George Town was awash with muddy brown water, as frantic residents rushed to salvage their belongings in the wee hours.

"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," Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said in a Facebook post yesterday, shortly after calling Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi for help at 3.30am.

"(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, as in Penang, which is run by the Democratic Action Party.

"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.

Ms Sherilyn Kang, a resident of George Town, told The Straits Times that her family had been unable to sleep all night as they worked to rescue their belongings from 30cm-high waters.

"The water has still not subsided so we can't clean up yet," she said at 10am, about five hours after the rain stopped.

"This is the worst in Penang's history," she said.

In a press conference yesterday 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, Mr Chow Kon Yeow, said that there was up to 372mm of rainfall overnight in some areas, equivalent to 1½ months of rain.

Although RM300 million (S$97 million) worth of flood mitigation projects have been approved to improve Penang's drainage system, many have not been completed, he added.

By noon, the flood situation had improved, but bad weather is expected to continue, said the Meteorological Department.

The British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur said yesterday that the visit by Britain's Prince Charles and his wife Camilla to Penang this evening was still expected to proceed, although it was monitoring the weather conditions closely.

Meanwhile, the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia and Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia examinations - equivalent to O and A levels respectively - will begin as scheduled today despite the floods.

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