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Friday, September 30, 2011

Storm of anger erupts in Sabah west coast

Strong winds accompanying typhoon Nesat has showed up the Sabah government's ill-preparedness to deal with natural disasters.

KOTA KINABALU: The freak storm that hit the state on Tuesday morning toppling trees and causing widespread havoc in the west coast of the state has served up a warning that the authorities are ill-prepared for a major disaster striking the state.

Power disruptions, and telephone and Internet disconnections were still being experienced and commented on by city dwellers – more than 64 hours after strong winds accompanying typhoon Nesat ravaged the city.

The storm caught many off guard and left them grumbling about the lack of response from City Hall and the utility companies.

Several irate city dwellers said calls to report power and communication disruptions in their vicinity went unanswered.

Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) information chief Chong Pit Fah said the state government should immediately activate the State Natural Disaster Committee in the various districts, the moment it learns of an imminent typhoon or an earthquake in the region, which might lead to a natural disaster.

“Such a preparation is not impossible unless the State Meteorological Department is not functioning properly or, there was no communication at all between the department and the relevant state agencies, particularly the State Natural Disaster Committee, which is spearheaded by the state secretary,” he said.

He said that an early preparation would ensure a quicker and efficient crisis response and management that is crucial in saving peoples’ lives and properties, or at least minimising the people’s suffering.

He was speaking after visiting a housing area near here on Wednesday night following complaints from residents there who had endured close to three days of power outage, from 4am on Tuesday to 12.45am yesterday.

Slow response

While Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) contractors were kept busy repairing power cables across the city damaged by falling trees since early Tuesday morning, disgruntled residents were complaining about the slow response to their complaints.

One of the complainants, Wesley Yeo, lamented that the long hours of power outage had caused them, especially the elderly residents and the young babies, great inconvenience and suffering.

“Everything was not functioning. We can’t even charge our mobile phones and the worst part was we can’t sleep properly at night due to security reasons as there are no lights.”

He said he had been calling the SESB hotline more than a dozen times over the last two days to enquire about the status of the problem and each time was only told that its technicians were doing their best attending to it.

He added that this was also the first time they experienced such long hours of power outage.

BN reps not around

Another resident, who only wished to be known as Chong, complained that all the food which he had just purchased and stored in the refrigerator had gone bad.

He described the long delay in restoring power supply to the area as gross incompetence of the entire state machinery, in particular the State Natural Disaster Committee.

“This happened right in the middle of the city and it still takes three days for the SESB to restore the power supply.

“Just imagine how long would it take if the same problem were to happen in the rural areas?

“This only goes to show that all the talk about development and the KPI (Key Performance Index) under the ‘Government Transformation Programme’ is just a rhetoric… a sick joke,” he said.

He noted that the authorities were quick in resolving the problem in some upscale areas and questioned if it was because a minister or some senior Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders were living in the said residential area.

Chong also said none of the BN leaders or elected representatives were available when the residents were “in dire need of their attention and help”.

“Recently, we noticed that they (BN leaders) have been zealously fighting over the seats … but what are they doing for us?” he asked.

Broadband Internet connections in many parts of the city were also disrupted with subscribers complaining that service was only resumed 48 hours later.

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