Preemptive measures could limit the suffering when the rains hit this year
In Kedah, especially in Alor Star, the question of when the next general election will be held is the least of the people's worries.
Top on the minds of many is the floods.
Many people in Kedah, especially residents of Alor Star, do not want a repeat of last November's huge floods.
Many major roads in Alor Star were inundated.
Almost overnight, villages and housing estates, including exclusive neighbourhoods along Lebuhraya Darulaman, were turned into instant islands.
Even the North-South Expressway near Kepala Batas, north of Alor Star, was flooded. The Sultan Abdul Halim Airport, too, was not spared and was closed for about a week after many parts of its runway were flooded.
At the peak of the floods, some 40,000 people were forced to find refuge at more than 100 flood relief centres.
Many schools and businesses were forced to close.
In short, it was hellish for the victims, not only in Alor Star but also in Kubang Pasu, Padang Terap and Pendang districts.
Adding to the flood victims' woes, help and flood relief efforts from the state machinery were lagging compared with the assistance provided by the numerous Federal Government agencies.
This prompted Sultan Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah of Kedah, who was touched by the plight of his subjects, to call on all parties to put aside their political differences during the people's time of need.
Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Azizan Abdul Razak has admitted that the state government was caught off-guard by the torrential rains, which led to the huge floods, the worst Kedah had faced in recent years.
The private sector including several of the country's major banks, like AmBank and CIMB, also rushed to help with cash and in kind.
Also lending assistance was Media Prima, the country's leading integrated media group, which rallied the support of a number of its business partners, including Mydin and Nestle, to meet the victim's daily needs.
Playing an equally important role in flood relief efforts and providing medical aid were the true heroes -- volunteers of a number of non-governmental organisations and personnel from the Civil Defence Department, soldiers and policemen.
Incidentally, Kedah folklore dictates that if it rains non-stop on malam Jumaat (Thursday night), flooding is imminent and that was what actually happened.
It rained non-stop on Oct 28, a malam Jumaat, and it continued with great intensity until Saturday.
By then, residents in low-lying areas in Padang Terap district were the first to bear the brunt of the continuous downpour.
This was followed by Pendang and then Kubang Pasu before the floodwaters rushed down to Alor Star. The Meteorological Department has forecast heavy rain, with five or six periods of heavier-than-normal rainfall in Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan and Terengganu later this month.
So, given the weatherman's forecast that there would be some 40 per cent more rain during the current northeast monsoon, is Kedah ready to face the floods if Nature unleashes its fury like it did last November?
A check on the ground revealed much still needed to be done to prevent unnecessary hardship to the people, especially those living near rivers, streams and irrigation canals.
In many parts of Alor Star, blocked waterways are a common sight. Some drains and streams that channel excess water from the housing, commercial and industrial areas have ceased to exist because of years of neglect.
The Auditor-General's Report 2010 on last November's floods highlighted the state authorities' failure to address invasion of river reserves, and poor maintenance and management of waterways.
Flood storage reservoirs and silt trap pools were also neglected.
Losses from the floods were estimated at about RM43 million.
The threat of huge floods is very real and imminent, and it can be minimised if the state authorities take preemptive measures fast.