Reminiscent of the past…
It was a late afternoon on June 30th 1995, I think. Keith Ganesan’s Agency was already up at Selesa Homes, just past Genting Highlands; for a team retreat after closing the year. It was to be a sales production roundup of the year that had gone by and plan for the new year. But most of all, it was chillout time at the pool, relax, have fun , with a free flow of good food and drinks.
Me, I was still in Sime Axa Assurance Berhad’s head office, leaving nothing to chance…
Gosh! I am either too tired or am in “super procrastination” mode. My eyelids are happy – no actually, they are heavy. Maybe, they are happily, heavy… and I am yawning quite a bit. My bed beckons. I think I will “put on my thinking cap” and get into my “let’s think about it” position – lie on the wooden floor, to relax a bit. Just a bit. I will be back… For now, Alan’s left the building…not really; just his workstation.😉
Back to me still being in the Sime Axa Assurance Berhad head office… I was there, making sure that all my sales production was accounted for in the year-end closing. I had worked right to the end, registering as much insurance production as possible.
By the time I had things settled, it was about 3.30pm to 4.00pm in the afternoon. When I left the office in downtown Kuala Lumpur; it was raining quite heavily. So, I took it slow and easy; driving, that is. Seem to be missing out letters from words when typing them in – must be the keyboard; not me. 🤪 I saw a nice, flashy, typewriter key movement and sound keyboard at the IT store a few days ago…. thinking… just thinking.✨🎅
Focus Alan, focus!
Having packed for the trip before going to the head office; my plan was after having dealt with the office matters; to drive straight to Serendah Homes which was about an hour and a half away, including having to maneuver the KL traffic on the way up.
Everything seemed fine along the way until just after the Gombak district; where the rain began to pour. The rain was belting down at its hardest, causing poor to no visibility at all on the highway as I reached the fork on the road; the left going up towards Genting Highlands. A few metres after the fork on the road, all traffic was at a standstill.
For about a kilometre up to where I was, there were massive waterfalls on the left where the mountains were. These waterfalls were not there before that day. They were spewing brown water and large rocks / boulders which were falling onto the highway. I was worried that one or more of these rocks and boulders would hit me. Why the traffic stopped was because people were out of their vehicles in the pouring rain, physically moving and clearing these rocks and boulders off the highway.
By this time, the water level was half way my car door height, about 12 inches below the window. I was driving my 1993 Ford Laser TX-3: 1840cc, fuel injection – latest model; 16V DOHC, 92 kW (123 hp), two-door, boy-racer car. It was a manual transmission or “stick shift” as the Americans call it. I knew the only way to keep the water from getting into the engine was by keeping the gear in 1st or 2nd and high revving the engine, causing a strong “blowing out” effect from the exhaust.
My TX-3 looked exactly like this, with the “T-spoiler”. It was a boy-racer – fast. Sounded great. Awesome car to drive.
Some men helped clear the path for me to drive on to the Genting Sempah tunnel slightly further ahead.
When I got to the tunnel, I thought I was safe, away from danger, as there wasn’t much water in the tunnel as it was slightly higher than the rest of the highway. But within minutes, the water level started rising and soon was half the car’s height, just below the window.
I pulled the handbrake up with my foot firmly on the brake pedal and my right foot on the accelerator pedal. I had to coordinate my movements – left foot on the clutch pedal, right foot on the brake or accelerator pedals while shifting gear between neutral, one or two.
I could not move to the other end of the 900 metre long tunnel as people on the other end panicked and were blocking the exit. Road plastic dividers were floating and banging the car. I could feel the car moving backwards, slowly because of the waters pushing against it. I panicked when I saw a Volvo floating near out-of-control, coming towards me. I was shouting on top of my voice (like as though anyone could hear me), trying to attract the Volvo driver to bring his car under control.
Luckily, the men who helped push my car in the tunnel, indicated to me to put the gear in neutral but at the same time, keep revving the engine at high revs. After sometime, I and other cars behind me, got out of the tunnel, and made our way to Genting Sempah, which was on high ground. Safe.
After an hour and a half, the rain had stopped, water levels subsided slowly. I headed on to Serendah Homes and told the team of my harrowing experience. They all thought I was exaggerating and did not believe the level of danger I had experienced.
My father called me up just after I reached Serendah Homes, to find out if I was ok after seeing the news on tv, initially stating that 1 life had perished. An update of the news later stated that 20 lives were lost, including those in a bus on the way up to Genting Highlands. The road collapsed and many of those in the bus lost their lives.
For a long time after that day, whenever I saw a rainstorm forming especially in K.L. (Kuala Lumpur); I would drive into a building and park on the top level of its carpark; until the rain stopped. K.L. tends to easily flood, especially the Jalan Ampang and Jalan Sultan Ismail interchange.
When the rain belted down on many parts of Selangor with no mercy last Friday and Saturday; it wreaked havoc, especially in areas of Klang and Shah Alam. Kuala Lumpur was not spared, too. It brought back memories of that last day of June in 1995.
By Saturday evening; the authorities blocked all traffic from getting into Klang, at least via the Federal Highway.
We were concerned for my aged parents who are living in Klang. This was a post I put in social media on Sunday evening: “Just to let you know, Jeannie and I just reached my parents’ house in Tmn Chi Liung, Klang. Coming onto the Federal Highway from Subang Jaya, it is like a war torn massive disaster area. Damaged Cars, at least 6 of them left strewn all over the road, vehicle parts, a lot of destruction – had to drive slowly to avoid all of this.”
With the experience I went through which was only for a few hours; I can only imagine what the people living in these areas are facing now. The general Malaysian public went full swing into action with donation of food, aid, money… whatever help they could render. This is what Malaysia is all about.
The sun has been blazing the whole of today (Tuesday, Dec 21st). The weather bureau has awoken from its slumber and has issued a warning to expect heavy downpours right up til he end of the year.
In the meantime, skiing on the mountains of the middle east…
I have to admit that it has been very difficult for me while writing this article and having to relive the experience that I went through, even though it is over 26 years ago. I give strong mention of my Ford Laser TX-3 because it did not fail me and endured the harshness of the flood waters.
BODY: integrated body/chassis three-door hatch
ENGINE: 1840cc four cylinder with fuel injection & turbocharger
POWER & TORQUE: 92kW @ 6500rpm 123hp (DIN), 155Nm @ 3000rpm
PERFORMANCE: Yop Speed: 190km/h (118mph)
0-400 metres: 16.6seconds
TRANSMISSION: 5-speed manual
SUSPENSION: Independent with struts, coil springs and anti-roll bar (f) Independent with struts, coil springs and anti-roll bar (r)
BRAKES: Disc (f) disc (r) with power assistance
TYRES: 195/60/14 radial 1990-94 Ford Laser TX3 https://www.automobile-catalog.com/make/ford_australia/laser_australia_3gen/kh_laser_hatchback_tx3/1993.html
- Pictures of the Ford Laser TX-3: tradeuniquecars.com, wikipedia
- Subang Jaya, Shah Alam and Klang are cities in the state of Selangor, Malaysia.
- Kuala Lumpur is the capital of Malaysia.