Sultan spot-checks flood chaos
By Azlan Othman, Syafiq Affendy & Malek Hashim

Questions and more questions were thrown at the cabinet ministers for answers to the chaotic aftermath of flash floods which left Brunei-Muara residents outraged and businesses livid with the power outage that followed.

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam made a whirlwind tour yesterday for answers on the latest development of the new power station at Bukit Panggal in Tutong, power restoration works, assistance rendered by the Ministry of Religious Affairs to flood victims and the impact of health services from such a disaster.

Government response to the disaster, albeit short-lived, was posed to cabinet ministers, permanent secretaries and senior officials during His Majesty's unscheduled visit to the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) at the Old Airport following the recent flash floods, the worst to hit the Brunei-Muara District in recent years.

Also present was His Royal Highness Prince Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office. His Majesty was also briefed on the chain of events caused by the disaster, the role of NDMC as he toured places affected by the recent flash floods.

Areas visited by the ruler yesterday included power stations in Gadong, electrical substations near the Kiarong underpass, Kg Mulaut and the Mall in Gadong. The 66,000 volt Gadong main power station was submerged while the Kiarong tunnel was also flooded. The drainage system in Sg Tampoi, Sengkurong, was inevitably overwhelmed.

Earlier, His Majesty toured the NDMC and was briefed by the Director of Fire & Rescue Department and the Director of NDMC, Awg Yahya bin Hj Abd Rahman on the disaster that hit the nation on Tuesday night and their state of readiness.

Awg Yahya said 59 calls pertaining to landslides and 165 for flash floods were received on Jan 20 and 21, 2009. Abnormal intensity of rainfall of 66.7mm of rainfall and 167.6mm were recorded between Jan 19-20.

He added that most of the calamities occurred in the Brunei-Muara District and low scale catastrophies were also reported in other districts. It also resulted in two deaths.

The Minister of Energy, Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Dewa Major General (R) Dato Seri Pahlawan Awang Haji Mohammad bin Hj Daud said power supply has been fully restored nationwide as of 2am early Saturday morning (Jan 24). He also stated and said that an engine at Bukit Panggal Power station is still under repair before it could be handed over. It is not at its full capacity.

In his response, the caring monarch stressed on the importance of utilising the Bukit Panggal Power station especially during a disaster of this scale.

The Minister of Health, Pehin Orang Kaya Indera Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Haji Suyoi highlighted that only one police health clinic in Gadong was affected by the flash flood and that a clinic in Muara experienced powercut. He also highlighted the advisory issued by the ministry to the public.

NDMC Director Yahya also pointed out the exceptional high tides - reaching 2.2 to 2.4 metres - that began on Friday evening (Jan 23) which may affect Kg Ayer residents as their next test.

The Minister of Development, Pehin Orang Kaya Hamzah Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Hj Abdullah among others highlighted the situation at the Kiarong underpass during flash floods pertaining to its pump, standby generators as well as the situation at Kg Burong Pinggai area in Berakas.

The benevolent ruler then toured the Mall in Gadong to look at the situation and found time to exchange greetings with passers-by. Businesses have been affected at the bustling area where by the usual heavy traffic scene was absent during the past four days due to power disruption. Systems revert back to normal yesterday including the police hotline.

The Department of Electrical Services said power was restored in Rimba at 2am, Mata-Mata at midnight, Batu Bersurat at 10pm, parts of Beribi at midnight, Katok A and B at midnight and The Mall in Gadong at 1.30am. - Borneo Bulletin (24th Jan 2009)