Disasters and Malaysia’s readiness

The question begging to be answered is whether we are going to be professional enough to act when a disaster (natural or man-made) strikes.

That thought came into my mind when I was watching Mega cities: Mexico City over National Geography Channel in Astro.

Considering Mexico City is the world’s biggest city but at ground zero – on one side: one of the world’s most earthquake-prone hotspots, on the other: one of the world’s most active volcanoes and beneath their feet – a shaky foundation of landfill. To Mother Nature, Mexico City is one big target and any moment, another big earthquake could hit the city.

However, against the most destructive force of nature, the city is tapping the power of science. Towering over the city is Latin America’s tallest skyscraper – built to ride out an earthquake on giant shock absorbers. From subways to freeways, National Geography examines how Mexico City is harnessing cutting-edge technology to build in safety.

I was impressed with the amount of changes implemented after their 1985 quake which killed 9,500. The changes were both small and drastic. This included building of “Torre Mayor” – a 55 floors building which is built to last an 8.5 Richter-scale earthquake (Picture source: http://www.glasssteelandstone.com/)

Although, it is fortunate that Malaysia is not a disaster prone country, I believe that this has somehow led to the government and local authorities to be more lax in the readiness to meet the unexpected.

From the “usual” flashfloods, “act of god” landslides, “Indonesians are our brothers” haze to the “we did not know” tsunami, we Malaysians are continuing seeing how unprofessional people in authority can be in facilitating information and working out strategies on lesson learned from the past.

Below is the list of some of the dumb statement or act done by Malaysian authorities when dealing with some of the recent disasters (some are unfortunately man-made):-

1. Haze

The DPM’s statement that the Government has no plans to release the API reading as it is classified as “top-secret” was a notch up in “government dumb statement”

2. Tsunami

Those private groups and individuals who rushed in to help with specialist vehicles equipped with winches and cranes, at the request of agencies like Mercy Malaysia, found a police cordon around the affected centers which allowed no one in.

3. Landslide

Samy Vellu revealed that the authorities saw signs of an impending rockfall (some boulders as large as double-storey houses) at NKVE on Sunday, just days before it happened, but did not close down the highway in order to accommodate the Hari Raya holiday traffic.

4. Fly-over

Samy Vellu (once again) said that “there is nothing wrong with the design” when commenting on the Kepong stretch of the MRR2 which had to be closed after it was found that 31 out of the 33 beams supporting the elevated road were defective and repair works would cost a whopping RM20 million and take three months to complete (I wonder if the fly-over had collapsed, would that amount to an “Act of God”?)

Anyway, to be fair, I must admit that we learned from disasters and taken steps to avoid them. Steps like the “SMART” project, establishment of the “SMART” rescue team (hmmm…note any similarities here?), etc

Only time will tell whether the people in authority will be professional enough to act or dumb enough to standby and watch

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