Malaysia: Uncertain weather leads to unusually heavy rainfall

AHMAD FAIRUZ OTHMAN New Straits Times 9 Feb 17;

When most villagers in Segamat district were busy cleaning their flood-devastated homes, labourer Razak Komeng, 64, and his family could only watch helplessly as their kampung house at the edge of Kampung Bukit Senggir remained inundated.

“When it rains heavily, my house will be the first to get flooded and the last to dry out when waters recede,” he said.

The village is between Sungai Muar and Sungai Kenawar, and the large volume of water that was making its way downstream from Buloh Kasap got trapped in the low-lying plot of land where Razak’s home is.

It was frustrating to look at when waters had receded at Razak’s neighbour’s single-storey bungalow, which was on higher ground.

“It was the same during the last big flood in 2011. My house remained flooded for a month, while my neighbours had begun moving back in,” he said when he checked on his home with his wife, Faridah Biru, 56, a week ago.

Razak and Faridah were among thousands who were evacuated from their homes as floods wreaked havoc in eight districts in Johor last month.

At the height of the disaster on Jan 25, more than 9,000 people were evacuated to temporary relief centres in eight districts. It has been two weeks since the floods began, but the effects are still evident.

The last 30 evacuees, from six families, who were housed at a relief centre in Balai Raya Batu Badak, Segamat, returned home at 3pm yesterday. They were not allowed to return home earlier because much of the area was either inundated or covered in 10cm of mud.

Experts are looking into the cause of the disaster. Uncertain weather patterns greatly contributed to the floods this time. There was a record amount of rainfall in the worst-hit district of Segamat in the first two days of the flood.

Johor Health and Environment Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said 432mm of rainfall was recorded in Segamat on Jan 23 and Jan 24, which was when floodwaters began to rise in the district.

It was among the highest rainfall for a continuous period since the last big floods in Johor in January 2011. At the time, Segamat recorded about 500mm of rainfall in just two days.

The data being gathered by the authorities will provide clues to understanding the change in weather.

Irregular rainfall patterns must be looked into, and the dry spell that Johor experienced in the past two years must also be factored in.

A source told the New Straits Times that the huge amount of rainfall in Segamat in the first two days of the floods was a pattern that was supposed to occur once in 120 years.

“With climate change, much of the weather patterns that experts are familiar with are no longer relevant.”

“In the last two years, some areas in Johor received a fraction of the rainfall it was supposed to receive. But this year, some areas recorded large amounts of rainfall in only two days.”

The Johor government had made early preparations for the floods in December. There were warning systems, such as the alarms set up by the Drainage and Irrigation Department at rivers in Kota Tinggi to warn villagers that waters were rising. These methods made a big difference and saved many lives and property.

Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin has directed local councils and district offices to study the recent floods and reexamine flood-prone areas. The data would be passed to agencies such as the Department of Environment, Drainage and Irrigation Department and National Disaster Management Agency.

Ahmad Fairuz Othman is NST Johor bureau chief. When not working, he loves driving along the coastal highway and trunk roads of Johor. A lover of food, music and theatre, he recommends everyone to try Johor’s version of 'ais kacang', which is drenched in chocolate sauce

Be wary of strong winds and big waves in east coast, Johor folks told
YEE XIANG YUN The Star 9 Feb 17;

JOHOR BARU: Although all flood relief centres in Johor have been closed, the state government has reminded the public to be wary of strong winds and big waves in east Johor.

State Health and Environment Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said strong winds of 40-50km/h and high tides reaching a height of 3.5m are expected in the east of Johor as well as Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan.

He said the situation would go on from Feb 11 to Feb 14 according to the Meteorological Department.

"The strong winds and choppy seas could pose a danger to small boats and those engaging in water sports and recreational activities by the sea," he said in a statement on Thursday.

Popular beach and sea activity spots such as Mersing and Desaru are located on Johor's east coast.

During the floods in January, more than 8,100 flood victims in Johor were forced to evacuate their homes and seek shelter at the 73 relief centres statewide.

Segamat was the worst affected area with 27 flood relief centres followed by districts like Tangkak, Kota Tinggi and Mersing.

Flood relief centres eventually closed as the water receded. The last evacuation centre, at the Batu Badak hall in Segamat, was closed at 3pm on Feb 8.


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Indonesia: Rare Javan leopard spotted in West Java

Hans Nicholas Jong The Jakarta Post 9 Feb 17;

A Javan leopard has been captured on camera at a conservation park in West Java. (JP/File)

The Javan leopard, a critically endangered subspecies, has been sighted at the Cikepuh conservation park in Sukabumi, West Java.

The sighting of four leopards is significant as it is believed there were fewer than 250 adults of productive age left in 2008, with a rapidly decreasing population due to habitat loss, poaching and prey depletion.

The West Java Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BBKSDA) caught the leopards on camera from July to August 2016 along trails found by local people and researchers.

“The 28-day observation captured seven video frames that show the leopards’ activities at the Cikepuh park.

"Three leopards with yellow spots and another with black spots were filmed,” Environment and Forestry Ministry spokesman Djati Witjaksono Hadi said.

The ministry estimates that 12 leopards live in the park.

“Further observation is needed to determine the exact number of leopards as well as the sex ratio,” Djati said.

The park was thought to have no Javan leopards within its confines due to half of the area being degraded from 1998 to 2001.

The discovery indicates the success of the rehabilitation and restoration of the Cikepuh conservation park. (dan)

Javan leopard sighting in Indonesia raises hopes for rare big cat
Channel NewsAsia 9 Feb 17;

JAKARTA: Four Javan leopards have been spotted in an Indonesian national park where they were previously thought to have died out, raising hopes for the future of the rare big cat.

The leopards were filmed in Cikepuh wildlife sanctuary on Java island by hidden cameras installed after reports the creatures' dung and footprints had been spotted in the area, the environment ministry said Thursday.

Several sets of cameras scanned the area for 28 days in July and August, and filmed three leopards with yellow fur and black spots, and one that was entirely black.

Another eight leopards were believed to be roaming the sanctuary, the ministry said, basing their estimate on studies of the animals' footprints and scratches found on trees.

"The return of this species indicates that the sanctuary has been successfully restored," said environment ministry spokesman Djati Witjaksono Hadi.

The Javan leopard was previously believed to have died out in Cikepuh in the early 2000s due to rampant illegal logging that has devastated the area's forests, the big cat's natural habitat.

Environmental group Conservation International estimated in 2015 there were only around 500 Javan leopards left in the wild, most in forests in western Java.

Leopards are the smallest members of the big cat family, and can grow to around six feet (1.8 metres) in length. Different leopard subspecies are found across the world, from Africa to India and Russia.

- AFP/ek

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Taiwanese woman jailed for shark fins' haul in Costa Rica

Channel NewsAsia 10 Feb 17;

SAN JOSE: A Costa Rican court has sentenced a Taiwanese business owner to prison over a fishing haul of illegally hacked-off shark fins destined for sale abroad, officials and environmentalists said on Thursday (Feb 9).

The businesswoman, identified by her last name of Tseng, was ordered to spend six months behind bars. The verdict was handed down on Monday by the court in the western port city of Puntarenas.

It was the first criminal sentence in the country against the practice of shark finning, which involves slicing off a shark's fins before dropping the live fish back in the sea. Unable to swim effectively, the wounded creature faces a grim future: suffocating, starving or being eaten.

Shark fins fetch a high price in Asia, where they are often used in soups served on special occasions.

Tseng's was "a historic sentence," said Gladys Martinez, lawyer for the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA).

Her case began in October 2011, when her fishing boat, the Wan Jia Men 88, was found with 151 sharks aboard. Their fins had been chopped off.

She was initially acquitted in 2014, but the matter went to appeal, and the Puntarenas court this week found her responsible for damage to Costa Rica's natural resources.

The Central American country, known for its biodiversity, has ratified several treaties for the protection and sustainable use of marine resources.

- AFP/de

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