Chennai Floods & Prepping


Read these first:-

I am still on hiatus, hopefully not for long

Chennai-flood-EPS

(Image source: http://www.newindianexpress.com)

Let’s talk about prepping which is another key aspect of this blog (the other is how Malaysians drive on the road and of course politics) and on the recent disaster in Chennai, India.

The 2015 South Indian floods resulted from heavy rainfall during the annual northeast monsoon in November–December 2015. They affected the Coromandel Coast region of the South Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, and the union territory of Puducherry, with Tamil Nadu and the city of Chennai particularly hard-hit.

More than 400 people were killed and over 1.8 million people were displaced. With estimates of damages and losses ranging from over ₹20000 crore (US$3 billion) to ₹100000 crore (US$15 billion), the floods are the costliest to have occurred in 2015, and are among the costliest natural disasters of the year. The flooding has been attributed to the El Niño phenomenon during the El Niño year of 2015.

(Source)

I have friends, colleagues and distant relatives who are working and staying in Chennai and I know they have been badly hit by the flood.

For past 3-4 days of flooding, they had no electricity, running water, access to cooked food & drinking water, access to ATM and petrol and in some serious cases, even a place to stay. There had been reports of scores of people who had made it to the high grounds with just the clothes that they had wearing. They lost everything. It was a wreck to see small kids among those camped out waiting for the flood water to recede. An ideal doomsday scenario. And it is not over yet, the massive cleanup and getting back to the daily routine before the tragedy will take time and a lot of money and resources.

One cannot deny that Malaysia too is facing similar scenario on a daily basis but where credit is due and perhaps because we have been dealing yearly flooding since day 1, the response time and pre-flood emergency preparations by Malaysian Government seems to be much better than of the Tamil Nadu State Government.

Several flood mitigation initiatives have been undertaken by the various agencies, particularly the Department of Irrigation and Drainage, under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. Among such projects are the construction of flood plains, cantilever walls, tidal barrages, tidal gates, river channels and levees, pumping stations, debris removal systems, monsoon drains, retention and detention ponds, and dams.

The most high-profile mega project was the Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel (SMART) in Kuala Lumpur. Several forecasting warning system also exist to predict flooding instances, such as flood maps, telemetric rainfall stations, telemetric water level stations, manual stick gauges, flood warning boards, flood sirens, weather radar, satellites, and real-time flood forecasting warning systems.

(Source : Centre for Public Policy Studies)

At the end of the day, it is all about preparation, preparation and preparation and a good sense of paranoia (yes believe in Murphy’s law)

And talking about prepping for flood, it is crucial to have a good pre-flood planning and there must be at least 1 bug-out-bag prepped upfront before the flood and be ready with all the essential items.

The American Red Cross suggest these items to be available – packed and ready to go in case one need to evacuate the home:-

Water—at least a 3-day supply; one gallon per person per day
Food—at least a 3-day supply of non-perishable, easy-to-prepare food
Flashlight
Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
Extra batteries
First Aid kit
Medications (7-day supply) and medical items (hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, contact lenses, syringes, cane)
Multi-purpose tool
Sanitation and personal hygiene items
Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, deed/lease to home, birth certificates, insurance policies)
Cell phone with chargers
Family and emergency contact information
Extra cash
Emergency blanket
Map(s) of the area
Baby supplies (bottles, formula, baby food, diapers)
Pet supplies (collar, leash, ID, food, carrier, bowl)
Tools/supplies for securing your home
Extra set of car keys and house keys
Extra clothing, hat and sturdy shoes
Rain gear
Insect repellent and sunscreen
Camera for photos of damage

(Source)

hdcc_map_floods

(Future of global flooding – it is not going to end there. Source)

And that had me thinking on how early prepping could have made some difference in the aftermath of the worst flooding that Chennai had faced. Let’s list out the immediate concerns of the Chennai flood victims and then go back and see what they could have done or rather need to do for the next on-slaught of a similar flooding in the coming years.

1. Lack of Shelter

If there is risk of flooding, the first rule of risk management recommends risk avoidance and if not possible, at least some sense of risk mitigation. If possible, ensure the house is sitting on high grounds (not necessarily be on top of hills) or at least the foundation is higher than the rest.

In Chennai, whilst it is not possible for someone to look for hills to build houses but the other option available is staying in multi storey building. However even though those who had more than 1 floor of occupied space spared better but without electricity and running water, staying out longer would not been feasible

2. Lack of Food & Drinking Water

With most shops flooded, no running water and access roads blocked, many have to make do with whatever food they managed to salvage. Interestingly there was a piece in the news where the flood victims had no water to drink but alcohol selling shops up and running and having a booming business. In times of dire, it was astounding to know that alcohol is readily available than drinking water which means the liquor sellers were far more efficient than the state government.

To make things worse, shops that had food and water for sale, started selling them for exorbitant price.

And that means in the future, the residents must get ready with their bug out bag stocked with drinking water for at least 48 hours.

3. Lack of Money / Access to ATM

When disaster strikes, resources will be scare and limited and there will be people will to kill others to get access to these limited resources. And those who have that limited resources – shelter, food, water, medicines, transportation, etc will definitely take advantage of the situation (and they did in Chennai, big time).

Having money at hand will be a big, big advantage

4. Lack of Clothes for Change

Imagine this – your house is flooded and you had to abandon it to high grounds. You only managed to grab a few items before it becomes too late. You make it to high ground and you are wet, tired and cold and it is dark outside. And it starts to rain again and it does so for the next 2-3 days.

Trust me, having a change of clean, dry clothes goes a long way to comfort you and somehow replenish you spiritually for days ahead.

5. Lost of Important Documents

One rule that I enforce in the house is that all import documents are properly filed with a plastic cover and when the time comes to leave the house due to an emergency, we know where the documents are and easier to grab and leave. Having important documents especially identification documents is crucial especially aftermath when one need to get back on the routine.

6. Lack of Means of Transportation

The key advise here is to keep track of the news & updates on the weather and the local happenings. This is one reason why I am religiously watch the news first thing in the morning and before going to bed and ensure I get updates from other sources.

I am not sure if early warning was given before it was too late to do anything.

There were reports of people not getting sufficient warning and they only had minutes before it was too late to do anything. Scores of tourists from Malaysia were stranded in Chennai and missed their flights out from the country. Another aspect of transportation is the lack of fuel for the car / motorcycle. With the flood, there is a complete shutdown of the petrol stations around the city and even if they are opened, they don’t have the supply replenished in time. It is time to ensure that there is enough fuel in the vehicles at any one time and workout the alternate route and mode of transportation when roads are closed.

7. Lack of Communication

Even if you have a working telecommunications line working, if your phone battery is dead, you are back to square one and you know how power hungry smartphones are. A dead phone may even end up dangerous option if you are unable to call for help. And with family members separated, it is important to inform others where you are now and whether you are safe or not and if you need any help. Spare battery and power banks are life savers in this modern age and some power banks even now comes with option to charge using solar energy.

Now Chennai is getting back on its feet and there is a massive clean up before things can go back to routine (of course with a lot of finger pointing politically). The same in Malaysia – until today victims of flood is the East Coast still struggling and have not gone back to home. But the reality of things is this – such massive flood is not going to end and with a drastic change in the global weather over the past years, it is only a start.

It is time for preparation – this is not the end of things for sure

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Ending The Year 2014


najib golf

(Not everyone can be the PM – very, very hard at “work” overseas. Some had said that there is nothing wrong for a leader to take a break. Well, that is correct but not when the country is seeing one of the worst floods around. The big mamma still on holiday, its so seems – no one had seen her wading through the high water in downtown Kota Bahru. Image source)

Before I go further, my deepest condolences to the family and friends on those were abroad the Air Asia Flight QZ8501 – the 3rd tragedy in the year that involves a Malaysian linked airline. I don’t know why Malaysians had to face this – not once or twice but three times in the same year. MH370 is still missing and MH17 just had to be at the wrong place, wrong time and QZ8501 must have met mother of all storms. One just hope that there will be some kind of closure in 2015.

Heartfelt prayers also goes to the flood victims in the East Coast (and also in the West Coast now) that saw one of the worst flooding since 1971. Prepping is no longer a joke – with such flooding is due to be a yearly affair, we need to look at prepping in a wider scope. Management of the rivers and coastal areas would be critical aspect of prepping from the Government. Citizens on the other hand should look into making their homes to be flood-proof or have an alternative place to stay and of course with proper stockpile of food and water. Stories piling up on instances of people running out of food and water and the situation looks hopelessly lost. Nonetheless it is a grave reminder of things to come. The more we put off prepping for such instances in the coming years, the more painful it is going to be. It is a reminder to me too as I have been focusing less on prepping in 2014.

My own 3 weeks break came and went without a blink and I will be soon be traveling again on work assignment. My flight back to Malaysia was scheduled to take off at about 8 plus in the morning and knowing that I need to be in the airport at least 2 hours before boarding and it is about 1 hour plus from the apartment to the airport, I booked a taxi to fetch me from the apartment at about 4 in the morning (that taxi driver came and waited for me since 3.30 am!). With the taxi booked and all luggage packed for the trip back home by 9 pm, I contemplated of taking a short nap. The night was still early and I was sure that I could woke up at 3 am. Just when I was to jump on the bed, I had a dreadful vision – the alarm ringing but I casually switching it off and going to bed, only to wake up at 10 am in the morning. I did not want to miss my flight, so I made a big pot of coffee and watched movie on TV. Good thing I was not feeling that sleepy and hours went off fast. A good shower in the wee morning ensure I was awake as I took the luggage down to the awaiting taxi.

I must have dozed off in the taxi – there was a bump and when I opened my eyes, we were just arriving at the airport. Another long wait for the airport for the check-in and breakfast but at least I was at the airport.

wolf

(Although I was disappointed on missing some of the titles that I saw in the previous year, this should be enough to last me until the next Big Bad Wolf Book sale)

When I came back home, instead of the usual nap I often take whenever I come back from overseas, I had to go off and do some work for the house (haircut however came first before anything else). My kids were excited to see me back, so they hardly allowed me to catch up on my sleep. Then at night, we went to the Big Bad Wolf Book Sales and I spent almost RM300 on books (this time around, my choice of books was less compared to the stack that my son had). It was however worth the trip – RM300 bought us almost 3 boxes of new books.

We came back late and decided against driving off to north in the morning (you see, I had promised my son to take him to the water park in Ipoh for the holidays). We decided to go after lunch which was not so bad as the traffic by then was fine and we did not have to slow down in many areas. The only “funny” thing that happened was my car door automatically unlocks itself and locks again when I press the brakes. By the time, we reached the in-laws house to stay for the holidays, it was already evening and my relatives were coming back from work. We stayed up late again, chit-chatting and watching movie. I was already feeling like zombie when I finally went to the bed (I was given a room of my own) but had a very disruptive sleep because I had to wake up a few times at night going to the bathroom (had too much to drink).

In the morning, the weather was great but I had something to do first – go and fix my car central locking. Still remember when it unlocks and locks itself when I was driving? It became worse – I found the car unlock when I went to check on it in the morning. That means if I lock up the car, a few minutes later, it will unlock itself and that is all that was needed for a car jacker to have an easy access to my car. I called the service centre and good thing was they had few cars on service schedule in the morning. The mechanic “managed” to fix it within 30 minutes – loose wiring they said. Happily I took the car out and barely 100 meters from the service centre, the problem started again. I drove back and this time, the mechanic followed me in the car. It was apparent then, that he had not fixed the problem. He took it back to check and this time, it took him almost 2 hours (including replacing the whole central locking mechanism) to get it right. Almost half day had gone by then. I went back and seeing that it was too late to go to water park, I decided on something that I have been holding back for past few days – catching up on my sleep.

rain

(I think this is Kuala Kangsar after our lunch in Chemor – we made a pit stop here because there is a famous bakery here where we wanted to buy bread. Situation was not ideal to bring the kids out for the fun day at the water park)

The next day, when we suppose to go to the water park, it started to rain cats and dogs. The situation looked gloomy. Even my son did not want to go out as the weather was very bad. My father in law however decided that we go for a lunch at one place he knows in Chemor (very near to the water park that we wanted to go). It was raining when we left the house, it was raining when we were on the highway and it was getting even worse when we drove into Chemor town. After parking the car at the back of the a small restaurant (it looked quite old as well) and struggling with the umbrella in the heavy downpour, we managed to get the 2 car load of people in front of the restaurant. We walked in and the atmosphere immediately changed. Inside was very modern and roomier. Lunch was extraordinary with my son ordering spicy crab curry and a good load of crabs to go with it. It was still raining when we left the restaurant and decided to take the old road instead of the highway and drive through the places where my grandmother used to live.

The so-called break from work at my in-laws place ended up with a bang (literally). We head back home on a working day, hoping that the highway would be free (and it was indeed) and the ride would be more pleasant. Nearing KL, things started to slow as we caught with the on-going road works with 2 of the 3 lanes closed. The traffic started to move slower and at some places, it was almost bumper to bumper. It was just after lunch time too and things was getting were warm in the car (despite the air-cond high). That coupled with the crawling traffic started to show its ugly side – I was falling asleep.

Often there was enough space in between for me to recover and stop the car but this time, there was none. Just when I thought of stopping at the next R&R, I must have dozed off as the next thing I realised is that I have bumped into the car in front. For moment, I was blur on what had happened. The driver came out and started looking at his bumper. Fearing the worst, I came out from the car, expecting to confront an angry driver but instead the man looked at me and said that there was no damaged and extended his hands. I shook his hand, said sorry and went back to my car. Rest assured, I stayed wide awake the rest of the journey but I still stopped at the next R&R for a break (and also to check if there is any other hidden damage). Imagine if I had dozed off when the traffic was fast (and me traveling at 110 km/h) and rear-ended a truck instead. I must have done some good karma to walk away from this with nothing more than a word of “sorry” and an handshake.

2014 had not been a very good year but it has not been a very bad one too. I had good times catching up with my primary school mates – some not met for almost 30 plus years recently. Blogging had taken a very back seat this year with me hardly having the time (but not ideas – thanks to travels and good old Malaysian politicians) to blog. I traveled to a new country this year, met good friends there, enjoyed the food & culture and hope to go to another in 2015. Work compounded this year compared in 2013 but that was expected – when one moves up in the organization structure, there will be more responsibilities, tasks and plans.

Happy New Year everyone and I will see you next year!

Brisbane Flood


Click here for more stunning, interesting photos

(An aerial view of the submerged runway at Rockhampton airport on January 6, 2011 in Rockhampton, Australia – Photo by Jonathan Wood/Getty Images)

The last time I saw something similar is when I was flying over from Dubai and we had to stop at Dhaka on transit. Bangladesh had seen one of the worst monsoon season just couple of days earlier and as we neared the capital, all we could see is brown, murky water.

There were patches of land, occasionally on the sea of water and there was people, cattle and everything that the people managed to save in time on this small patches of land. In fact, there was way too much water all around us, I thought we just going to pass over the airport. At the end, we did land but I realized that the airport is only part of the land that was not flooded.

We were even surprised to see a long line of passengers waiting for the plane – some even boarded with wet clothes and bags and a sad face that explains it all – leaving the loved ones with an uncertain future whilst they fly away from the flooded city. Due to the worsening flood, we did not wait for long and soon we were back on air, leaving the flooded country with a sense of relief.

Brisbane fared slightly worse with the runaway sticking up like a sore thumb but things are still bad over there with 200,000 people affected. Back at home, we have not been doing too good either.

Thunderstorm Heroes


Last Sunday was a tiring day….

(Don’t be an idiot and remain unnoticed to other motorists by not switching on the headlights. Image source: http://carcountrycreditcruncher.wordpress.com)

Saturday was hectic but it was almost a free day on Sunday, so we decided on the next thing to a good workout in a gym – shopping. We had our own reasons – my wife wanting to buy some cheap clothes for work (she intended to “capitalize” on cheap bargains during the on-going Christmas sales), me wanting to buy a bigger ext HDD (I am running out of HDD space fast) and my son, just wanting to go somewhere outside the house.

It was almost 6 hours of shopping & dining before we decided to call it and headed home. We walked a lot – you know how tough it is for the women to be satisfied with the choices available, right? At end of the day, my wife was somewhat happy with her purchase although it took some time for her to finalize the “final 3 T-shirts for work”, myself getting what I wanted (and more) and my son somehow unhappy for walking a lot for the day and not buying any toys at the end of the day (I tried to entertain his request but the chaos at the toys section, with Christmas around the corner, made us think twice of venturing into the place).

We were tired (but not hungry – we had a lot to eat – perhaps due to stress of shopping) and were felt relieved when we finally walked toward the parking lot. I noticed that most of the “in-coming cars” was wet and we could hear thunder in the distant horizon. I somehow knew that it is going to be a very wet journey home. However, it being a Sunday, I did not expect a lot of traffic on the road and expected a smooth ride back home.

It was pouring when we hit the road but it was alright until we reached Puchong IOI Mall area when the traffic was practically not moving. It was crawling – I suspected major accident upfront – after all, it was raining heavily and visibility was quite bad. As we moved up front, we saw the problem. Two of the three lanes of the highway were flooded, forcing all the three lanes to squeeze into a single lane. But once we passed this place, it was back to normal Sunday drive.

(Who is more visible in this photo? Image source: http://www.driveandstayalive.com)

As we were stuck in the traffic jam, we were able to see around us and observe how the other motorists were coping with the unexpected Sunday evening traffic jam in heavy rain and with very poor visibility and with a touch of uncertainty on what is causing this traffic jam. And one of thing that stood up quite “prominently” during the traffic jam is the part where concerned motorists switching on the car headlights so that they can warn others of them and them to others in that low visibility ride.

Interestingly there are 3-4 “dungus” with white / silver colored cars who think since it is still not night, did not opt to switch on the headlights. Perhaps the cheap bastards think that they can prolong the lifeline of their car headlights by switching on only when it absolutely needed. They continued to ride-on in the heavy rain without any lights switched on. There were (as predicted) 1-2 who panicked and switched on their hazard lights but then again, at least those idiots who switch on their hazard lights fared slightly better than those who don’t switch on anything. At least we know where these idiots are flying through in the heavy rain.

Thankfully the traffic was bad, so we did not have any “heroes” who are also speeding in the heavy downpour, low visibility conditions (to make things more “interesting”, throw in an idiot who is driving without any lights at the front). It is amazing on how some people put their fate (and theirs and others life) on their ABS-less, no traction control whatsoever, locally made cheap, tin can cars. It is “ok” if they are not aware of the effect known as aquaplaning but there is no doubt that the road is damn slippery. There is no doubt that when they slam their brakes, it is going to take a longer distance for their vehicles to come to a complete stop. There is no doubt that when this happens, we are going to have serious injuries all over the place.

Well, that is uncivilized Malaysian driver for you – always thinking on their backside when driving on the road.

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