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Penang govt defends move for own weather alert system

 | November 19, 2017

Chief minister's officer Raja Syarafina says state wants to prepare against future severe rainstorms and not provide daily weather forecasts.

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PETALING JAYA: The Penang chief minister’s special legal officer has dismissed the warning by climate expert Azizan Abu Samah that the state’s plan to have its own weather alert system may have serious legal implications.

In a statement today, Raja Syarafina Raja Shuib said it was wrong for Azizan, a professor at Universiti Malaya’s geography department, to argue about the legal liability of the move.

She said what the state intended to do was not to serve as a daily weather forecast channel, but to prepare and protect against future severe rainstorms.

She said the storm on the night of Nov 4 and morning of Nov 5 had caused massive flooding, landslides and uprooted trees in Penang, leading to sizeable economic damage and the loss of at least seven lives.

“Unfortunately, there was no warning whatsoever by the meteorological department of an impending rainstorm of this magnitude, one never seen before in Penang,” she claimed.

“The highest red alert warning was only issued at 9.30pm on Nov 4 when the rainstorm had already begun.”

However, the department’s director-general Alui Bahari had on Nov 6 denied claims that it was late in issuing a warning, saying that it had been given “as early as Nov 1” to relevant state authorities.

He said the more serious amber and red alert notices were issued after a yellow alert notice on Nov 1.

Alui also said the alert was given to all agencies involved in disaster management, through fax and email.

“We also sent SMS messages to relevant officers in charge of disaster management,” he had said, adding that a message was also sent to the Penang state secretary and the state meteorological department director.

“Besides that, we uploaded the warning on our website, Facebook page and Twitter. Even TV channels were told to warn viewers about the bad weather,” he had said.

Azizan was reported by The Star yesterday as saying that meteorological services in the region, such as those in Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand, tracked weather systems that moved across the boundaries of countries.

“There is an overlap in the data collected, so it is feasible if Penang wants to source for weather alerts from the meteorological services in other countries,” he had said.

“However, this must be done by well-trained experts. More importantly, they must realise that they will assume a legal responsibility if they were to issue their own alerts,” he added.

Raja Syarafina said the state government will conduct a study on how data from meteorological services from other countries in the region could be compiled and used for alerts.

“This will involve foreign experts where countries that have indicated their willingness to assist include China, Britain and Japan, countries which are familiar with nature-related disasters,” she said.

On Nov 14, chief minister Lim Guan Eng said that the state would come up with its own severe weather alerts, insisting that the meteorological department’s forecast was unreliable and had been issued too late.

Met Dept denies giving late warning on heavy rain in Penang

Fed up with Met Dept, Guan Eng wants to come up with own alerts


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