Ringlet dam disaster: The perfect storm

CAMERON HIGHLANDS - It was like a perfect storm. For years, persistent and unchecked land clearing has caused land erosion and heavy sedimentation in the Sultan Abu Bakar dam at Ringlet in Cameron Highlands.

On Tuesday, it started pouring cats and dogs. And at midnight, while most of the farmer residents of the area were fast asleep, the siren at the dam went off, signalling the release of excess water.

For 40 years now, the residents have heard the sirens only to see the Sungai Bertam water level rise a little. So, those who could hear the siren over the din of the pouring rain slept on.

And the waters came in a torrent, sweeping away cars and houses and destroying vegetables worth a fortune gone.

It was tragic story.

"But these are all man-made mistakes," said Regional Environ­mental Awareness Cameron Highlands (Reach) president R. Ramakrishnan.

The mistakes led to the death of three people, and left hundreds more homeless or with wrecked houses amd lives that they will have to nurse back to normalcy.