It happened around 24th Dec till 26th Dec, when the water rose to a record level high since 1993. I would remember these dates, because a) it was Christmas and b) i had to cancel my annual leave.
We had our hands really full, with the team having not enough sleep watching the water levels every hour. It was quite a confusing time too, because it really took awhile to hit us the stark reality that we just experienced huge floods right here, right then. The scope of our work when flood hits among others are to:
1) Cut off supply: but not just haphazardly–we would want to delay it as long as possible. Water is a good conductor, and the risk of 11,000 volts running inside water with people in it is a tremendous hazard.
2) Give alternative supply- if possible, to places that had once been connected to an installation that had submerged in water and hence was turned off but the place itself is not affected by rising water. We had to think of ways to connect these places to other electricity line sources. What was mandatory is to ensure that all relief centers, hospitals, and water treatment facilities are connected to electric supplies either by generator sets or ring supply.
3) Repair and restore: This took most work and present the worst challenges. Landslides come hand in hand with floods and hence, a lot of cables, electrical lines and poles fell apart like dominoes. If it was a backbone line, we had to repair them immediately, despite the conditions that was presented to us; be it road damages , muddy roads (A HUGE CHALLENGE TO MOVE VEHICLES) , and bad weather.
3) General relief help : Mostly in terms of transporting things, because we are well equipped with lorries and 4×4 so the team would lend a hand or two to help affected victims move their things to higher land and relief centres.
WHAT I LEARNT:
1) This is the time where the elected rep in your area should function. Rescuers need to have knowledge of the demographics of the area affected–how many towns, how many families, who are left out from being rescued. And you better hope your elected rep knows his
2) People wont listen to you until someone in a uniform give orders. Its an anxious time, especially when false information spreads wildly or no information at all travels out. Limbo, that was the feeling i would remember the most. Nobody really knows whats going to happen, or the extent of things happening.
Get the army and police to give evacuation orders, then perhaps you have much luck with stubborn heads. Stubbornness leads to a major problem in our area, whereby a lot of towns and villages are islanded. The roads going into a settlement was drowned in water, cutting off the community from anything. Nothing can come in and come out unless via boats or helicopters. For these cases, authorities had to ferry in supplies, food and medical personnel every 3 days by boats. We had no idea why people won’t evacuate when asked (that limbo feeling again i suppose), but since it was too late, we just make do what we can help.
3) Ask, what the relief centers need, don’t assume. This is a critical time,and mostly the issue are not the amenities or supplies are unavailable but they’re usually a) a huge mismatch in needs b) arrive late. In my area, there was approximately 40 ish relief centres, and each with differing needs and shortage of supply. A lot of people just go to one relief centre without asking anybody and dump their donations there. This is okay, but runs into risk of oversupply or mismatch. What could have been a smarter way is to find out who was in charge in distributing supplies on the ground to the relief centres (in our case, Jabatan Kebajikan Masyarakat) and ask them what things are in shortage of supply and by how much and hopefully things will match.
4) Donating stuff is okay, but think about other options in terms of efficiency. In the spur of ‘volunteering’ moment, a lot of people took up to their own hands by buying stuff in their hometown, and drove all across the country which can take days to reach a certain area when the matter at hands are urgent. This act is only favourable to areas that are devastatingly affected, where there are no business at all to buy supplies in-situ. For other cases, how about donating hard cash to a reputable NGO or personnel ALREADY on the ground, who can buy/deliver the supplies faster, and know their way around better?
5) Throw away party colours and ego. This is not the time to take sides, or score political mileage. People are suffering. It’s disgusting to take advantage of other people’s calamities. Cooperate with the government, o matter how much you hate them at the moment. One have to admit at that point, they have the machinery , manpower, authority and reach while you have nothing. It is advantageous to work with them.
6) Don’t argue with nature. Don’t argue with each other. This is a natural disaster after all, sweeping us like a jolt from sleep after a bad dream. Everybody is confused and sleep deprived,the situation feels surreal, a lot of people are given duties that are not in their job description. Of course there will be kinks in the relief operation. Instead of criticizing, what have you done to help, did you know getting huge boxes into the back of a lorry is a major headache? Help carry that at least. Also remember that this is also Allah’s decree. Make peace with it, and let us do our best. What counts is not the event that happened, but what are our reactions to the event.
7) Have sabr.
“You shall certainly be tried and tested in your wealth and properties and in your personal selves, and you shall certainly hear much that will grieve you from those who received the Scripture before you (Jews and Christians) and from those who ascribe partners to Allah, but if you persevere patiently, and become Al-Muttaqun (the pious ) then verily, that will be a determining factor in all affairs, and that is from the great matters.” [Quran, Al-Imran (The Family of Imran) 3:186]
It is the determining factor in all affairs.
And Allah knows best.