The Karak Landslide- how can I be prepared

A prints creen from www.thestar.com.my dated 11th Nvo 2015
A print screen from www.thestar.com.my dated 11th Nov 2015

Malaysian news portals have been busy with reports on the landslide that occurred recently on Karak highway. The news interests me as I travel quite often on that stretch of road. Land slide was ‘common’ in places like Cameron Highlands but for it to happen along Karak is rather surprising. Like the Kinabalu quakes, the 2014 Kelantan floods, this Karak highway landslide is a constant reminder that disaster can strike anywhere at any time in Malaysia (or anywhere else for that matter)

I immediatelly contacted some indigenous folks I know living along the Jalan Gombak- Bentong trunk road stretch. Thankfully none of my good friends there are effected by it. There were several news reports on people abandoning their vehicles on the highway when they come too close to the flood of mud, sludge, logs, rubbish and sludge. There are survival instances I have read in the past that spoke about the importance of staying with the vehicles when one is lost in the wilderness. Obviously this is not the case for a landslide. But imagine this scenario…

You are driving in your car (hopefully your family is safe and warm at home) on Karak highway in torrential downpour and all of a sudden you hear a loud crash. The road ahead of you suddenly turn into this slushy gush of mud with logs and debris coming towards you. The car in front comes to a halt. You try to back up your vehicle but there are even more cars behind you. What do you do??

I will definitely panic if I got caught in this sort of situation. I wouldn’t have a clue what to do. Abandoning the vehicle and move to a higher ground does sound like a good option but this is a landslide we are talking about. Whatever high land I may be standing on may decide to slide down as well. And if I am safe standing on higher ground, I do hope I have some gear with me that can shelter me (and my passengers) from the rain and cold until help arrives. On Karak highway, its mostly jungle on both sides of the highway, so perhaps some of the jungle survival experience and knowledge can come in handy.

I would probably have to make a split second decision and take my chances in situations like this. News like these reminds me:

  • To acknowledge that disasters can and will happen. Question now is how will I be more prepared for it?
  • Re-think my ‘Get Home Bag‘ in the car. This is a bag placed in the everyday vehicle (some recommends it to be a permanent) and it contains essentials that will help me get home safely in case I need to abandon my vehicle. This bag is different from Bug Out Bag or an EDC carry bag. See secretsifsurvival   and geekprepper for some ideas on the Get Home Bag.
  • Let someone know where I am going and what my plans are. This is something I know for a fact that is lacking among most Malaysians. Read my previous post on Bersih.
  • Never underestimate the importance of simple, everyday items like umbrella, raincoat, torchlight, whistle, coins, marker pens and even a spare set of car keys. Never know when we need them.

The Malaysian authorities worked really hard to clean up the affected sections of the Karak highway. This is good news to many people as I know the route is the most favored for those travelling to the east coast or Kelantan. Thankfully there has been no human fatality or injuries.

www.thestar.com.my 11Nov2015. Naturally heavy rains that caused a landslide would contribute to flash floods as well
www.thestar.com.my 11Nov2015. Naturally heavy rains that caused a landslide would contribute to flash floods as well

I did a search on the internet and found some useful information, though mostly are to do with floods. Listed below are some good information to know (with links to the original source).

  • If your vehicle becomes surrounded by water or the engine stalls, and if you can safely get out, abandon your vehicle immediately and climb to higher ground. Many deaths have resulted from attempts to move stalled vehicles. When a vehicle stalls in the water, the water’s momentum is transferred to the car. The lateral force of a foot of water moving at 10 miles per hour is about 500 pounds on the average automobile. The greatest effect is buoyancy – for every foot that water rises up the side of a car, it displaces 1,500 pounds of the car’s weight. So, two feet of water moving at 10 miles per hour will float virtually any car. Many persons have been swept away by flood waters upon leaving their vehicles, which are later found without much damage. Use caution when abandoning your vehicle, and look for an opportunity to move away quickly and safely to higher ground. (Source: disastercenter.)
  • If your car is swept into the water and submerged, DON’T PANIC! Stay calm and wait for the vehicle to fill with water. Once the vehicle is full, the doors will open. Hold your breath and swim to the surface. (Source: firstaid.)
  • If you are swept away in fast-moving water, try to make sure your feet are pointed downstream. Make every effort to direct your body over obstacles rather than under them. (Source: abcnews. )

At the time I am posting this, The Star online site reported that Karak highway has reopened fully. Good news indeed to many Malaysians. Let us hope no one has to live through another similar Karak landslide tragedy but if it has to happen (and I know it will), I hope we are all more prepared for it by then.