Freak storm wreaks havoc in Penang

Some 1,500 people lost their houses due to windstorms that hit Balik Pulau, Penang Monday night.

BALIK PULAU - Zinc roofs were blown away, trees uprooted and electric cables ripped off during a freak eight-hour storm that struck various places here.

The strong winds, which blew at an estimated 50kph starting from 8pm on Monday, damaged about 500 houses and shops, affecting some 1,500 people.

Among the worst affected areas were Kampung Sungai Rusa and Kampung Permatang Pasir. Other areas included Sungai Pinang, Jalan Baru, Kuala Jalan Baru, Pantai Acheh and Kuala Sungai Pinang.

More than 200 people had been temporarily evacuated to three relief centres - the Permatang Pasir mosque, Sungai Rusa Primary School and Teluk Bahang assemblyman Datuk Shah Headan Hussain Ayob Shah's service centre in Sungai Rusa - following the storm.

The only injury reported was that of a motorist whose car was hit by a fallen tree along Jalan Tun Sardon on Monday night.

The man, in his 30s, was sent to the Balik Pulau hospital where he was reported to be in a stable condition.

Retiree Zainal Ariffin, from Kampung Permatang Pasir, said he was thankful that he told his family to take shelter in their relative's house nearby after noticing the unusually high winds upon his return from the mosque.

"About 30 minutes later, the zinc roof of my patio came crashing down, hitting the cradle where my grandchild would usually take his nap in.

"I have lived here my entire life, but I have never encountered anything like this before. We are lucky to have left the house earlier," Zainal said yesterday.

It was probably the most unforgettable birthday for Masriyah Harun who turned 64 on Monday as the wind blew the roof of her house in Kampung Sungai Rusa.

Masriyah said she was watching television when she heard a loud crash outside her house at about 10pm only to discover later that it was her roof which landed nearby.

"This is the first time I have encountered such strong winds since I moved here in 1986."

Lorry driver Abdul Jalil Ishak, 54, carried his stroke-stricken wife Maliah Othman, 53, and ran out of their house when part of its zinc roof was blown off.

The strong gusts also destroyed the dome of the Sungai Rusa mosque, blowing off its steel panels.

The storm also dealt a big blow to agro-tourism and eco-tourism farm operator Sam Lim after it damaged a row of huts on his 1ha property in Sungai Rusa.

A similar freak wind, known as angin langkisau, has hit Penang in the past. This included the 60kmph one in June last year which toppled the lightning arrester of the Menara Umno building in Macalister Road.