Sultan visits flood victims in Tutong
Hakim Hayat & Khal Baharulalam

AS THE water level began to gradually recede in most of the flood-stricken areas in Tutong District yesterday, His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam showed his concern by visiting hundreds of flood victims and observing rescue and relief efforts.

Unpredictable weather due to the northeast monsoon season brought about higher than average rainfall to the Sultanate last week, triggering flash floods and hundreds of landslides across the country with Tutong District being the worst-affected district where access to some areas was hampered as roads are severely submerged.

Accompanying His Majesty on the visit from morning until early afternoon was HRH Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Ministerís Office.

Prior to the tour of the flooded areas, His Majesty visited the Incident Control Post (ICP) at the Lamunin Fire Station for a briefing on the latest developments, as well as on relief operations and action taken by various government agencies and volunteers in managing the situation since the ICP was activated on January 17.

The ICP has a strong team comprising firefighters from the Lamunin Fire Station, Fire and Rescue Department and members of the Tutong District Disaster Manage-ment Committee (DDMC).

His Majesty, who was behind the wheel of his 4WD vehicle, led his motorcade through flooded areas. The monarchís first stop was Kg Panchong in Mukim Lamunin, where 20 houses have been affected since December last year.

The benevolent monarch spoke to flood victims, listening to stories of their misfortune, with many lamenting over their damaged homes and belongings that included vehicles.

Further inside, in Kg Panchong Kuala Ungar, where the floodwater was more than waist-high, the monarch together with HRH the Crown Prince boarded a small boat that had to be pulled by security aides to allow for a closer inspection of homes inundated by floodwater.

His Majesty and HRH the Crown Prince later boarded an airboat to observe the severely affected areas of Kg Penapar, Kg Ukong and Kg Layong, which were inaccessible by road.

With particular emphasis placed on ensuring the welfare of the flood victims, five temporary shelters have been set up across the district, while food rations and aid are being distributed at several pick-up points by the Department of Community Development (JAPEM). His Majesty and HRH the Crown Prince also visited the temporary shelter at Serambangun Multipurpose Hall, which is currently housing 25 flood victims made up of three families from Kg Penapar, Kg Ukong and Kg Tanjong Maya.

The monarch and HRH the Crown Prince later visited another temporary shelter located at Kg Tanjong Maya Mosque Hall, which is housing three families from Kg Penapar.

During his visit to the temporary shelters, His Majesty emphasised that priority be placed on ensuring the welfare of the flood victims, with the monarch instructing relevant ministers to expedite the delivery of aid and relief efforts.

His Majesty and HRH the Crown Prince later took a closer look at the preparation and delivery of food rations by volunteers and youths.

According to the ICP, more than 130 houses have been affected by the flood following continuous rain last week. Of that figure, 46 homes are in Kg Tanjong Maya, 33 are in Kg Lubok Pulau, 47 are in Kg Penapar and 10 are in Kg Bukit Udal.

The DDMC said the flood and landslide situation are still at a manageable level and ensured that all related agencies under the DDMC are well-prepared to act immediately in a concerted manner if the poor weather continues.

Additionally, a number of command posts have been set up in strategic locations to coordinate transport in severely affected areas. The DDMC through the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) is providing transport by means of trucks and boats.

Meanwhile, to ensure the safety of residents, the Department of Electrical Services (DES) has, for a few days now, taken precautionary measure by shutting down substations supplying electricity to affected areas. Nine substations in Mukim Keriam, Ukong and Rambai have been fully restored, while power to some parts of Kg Ukong, Kg Tanjong Maya and Kg Penapar have been cut off for safety reasons.

The ICP reported yesterday that the level of floodwater in affected areas has subsided, while the Meteorological Department said the weather over the next few days is forecasted to be stable.

Also joining the visit yesterday were several Cabinet Ministers and senior government officials from various ministries. - Borneo Bulletin (26 January 2014)