Senior general-manager of Penang International Airport says flights were delayed due to bad weather and not flooding per se.
GEORGE TOWN: Yesterday’s rainfall in the area of the Penang International Airport that resulted in massive flooding at the terminal, was the highest ever in the history of the airport, with nearly 80mm of rain recorded at the height of the severe thunderstorm.
The airport’s senior general-manager Arif Jaafar said flooding occurred at the terminal as the existing drains were unable to push out the excess water accumulated following the “unprecedented” downpour.
He said despite a fully functioning 350,000-litre on-site detention (OSD) tank at the airport, waters could not be channeled out quickly enough, due to the rising tide.
“There was a massive back flow from the main drains. We have upgraded the drains within the airport area, installed pumps, even the OSD was operating optimally.
“When the monsoon drains are hit with back flow, the release of rainwater would be slower than usual, causing drains to be full. The waters stayed stagnant and some of its overflow then seeped into the arrival hall,” he said when contacted.
Arif also clarified that 14 flights were delayed, not due to the floods, but because of the bad weather.
“In any airport, when the weather is bad, the Air Traffic Control (ATC) will not allow landing or take off, as they see fit.
“We were back to normal in 45 minutes, we managed to clear passengers. Ten flights were delayed as they were on hold, waiting for clearance from the ATC,” he said.
Arif said the Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd’s RM1.5 million anti-flood measures completed at the airport this year, had facilitated the quick clearance of floodwaters. Among the measures were an on-site floodwater detention tank on the underground level of the car park and new curb side U-drains.
He also clarified that the flooding at the airport was due to the drainage system in the township, which he claimed had channeled water towards the airport.
According to Arif, the airport’s low-lying location made it a convenient “water catchment” spot, especially during the monsoon season.
He explained that the retention tank, which has a capacity of 350 cubic metres (350,000 litres), was supposed to gradually release excess water into monsoon drains within 30 minutes, but could not work as desired when heavy rainfall hit the area of the airport as well.
Meanwhile, state Public Works Committee chairman Lim Hock Seng said he would discuss with airport authorities regarding possible preventive measures to avoid another incident of flooding, should the heavy downpour continue.
Yesterday, heavy rains caused massive flooding in Teluk Bahang and Bayan Lepas, resulting in the evacuation of at least 50 people.
State authorities are bracing for a repeat of yesterday’s floods as heavy rains continued to pelt the island today.