Thank you, Mr Policeman!

No matter the natural disaster I’ve covered, whether it’s a wildfire or flood, I always come back with a much greater perspective.  

– Ginger Zee, American TV personality

Last Tuesday night, just before midnight, I was stuck on a flooded road in Kuching City. I would have spent the hours before daybreak the next day or until the water subsided on that road if not for a kind policeman.

He helped me reverse my car in pouring rain so that I could continue my journey home on another route.

It had been raining whole day that Tuesday. When I left the office in MetroCity, Matang after work around 11pm, it was still raining cats and dogs. I thought it was just another wet day.

But alas, last Tuesday was not just another rainy day. Many parts of Kuching were heavily flooded, including Jalan Laksamana Cheng Ho, the road that I used most of the time to cut through to Jalan Song and Tabuan Laru, where I lived.

That night, when I first arrived at the traffic lights, I decided not to drive into Jalan Laksamana Cheng Ho because I saw rows of cars lining up further up there. Instead, I chose to drive straight up Rock Road. But after a while, I noticed cars, even the big ones, reversing.

“Something must be wrong,” I thought to myself and so I also began to reverse, too. I ended up in a car park opposite a bank. Other drivers had also stopped in the car park. Like me, they were probably thinking of how to reach home safely.

After a while, I decided to give Jalan Laksamana Cheng Ho another try. “If the other cars can pass through, perhaps I can, too,” I thought to myself.

I later discovered how wrong I was! Only four-wheel drive vehicles like Hilux could pass through! The water rose up to their wheels. One car that went through wobbled and I held my breath until it crossed the flooded road safely.

After I realised that I could not pass through in my Myvi, I just parked at a spot just before the water level rose. I wanted to reverse but I could not make three-point turning because I could not see where the road ended and where the drain was on my left side.

I remembered what my younger sister told me, “Don’t gamble with water” and what my niece told me, “The drains can swallow a whole car”.

I wanted to reverse but a four-wheel drive was right behind me. My driving skills were also quite basic — just enough to get me from point A to point B and not enough to perform acrobatic tricks. I also could not see much in the pouring rain. My niece called me a few times because she was worried about me.

“Don’t switch off your engine. Keep it running,” she advised.

So there I was, stuck in the car in pouring rain on a flooded road. Suddenly, someone knocked on a window.

It was a man and he asked me, “Can you reverse?” “No, I cannot,” I said.

“Can you please help me reverse?”

He asked me to sit in the passenger’s seat while he took over the driver’s seat. I opted to sit at the back because it was raining so heavily.

I only found out he was a policeman in a patrol car after he had helped me reverse my car. Until then, I did not know policemen in patrol cars wore different uniforms. I am so used to the dark navy-blue uniforms worn by most cops.

As suggested by the kind policeman, I went home by an alternative road to cut through Hui Sing before passing through CityOne to Tabuan Laru. I arrived home in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, tired but safe.

Whoever that policeman is, I want to thank you, sir, for ensuring that I reached home safely that night. Thank you from the bottom of my heart and may God bless you. You know who you are.

That morning, the house of a friend who lived not far from Jalan Laksamana Cheng Ho was badly submerged. We saw from the video she sent that the flood water was knee-deep. Her sofa and other furniture were damaged.

I have been using Jalan Laksamana Cheng Ho for at least two years now to go to my office in MetroCity. This was the first time I found the road was flooded.

I wonder why the heavily used road was flooded. Yes, it was King Tide that night and it had been raining whole day and night. Could the flood have been avoided if the drains had been widened and drainage improved?

When I related my story of being stuck on the road the next day, a friend remarked, “Luckily, you know other shortcuts to your housing estate.” Yes, it pays to know your city well.

Since last Tuesday, I am worried each time it rains day and night. I am avoiding Jalan Laksamana Cheng Ho for the time being. But will the alternative routes to my housing estate be flooded? 

There are floods in many parts of Sarawak right now. Many flood victims have been moved to temporary evacuation centres for their safety. Besides the Covid-19 pandemic, the floods are posing more challenges to the people and government.

I understand the King Tide and rains in Kuching will continue to fall until today or tomorrow. According to the Meteorology Department on Friday, the King Tide phenomenon is likely to persist for another week.

So please take care, my friends, if you are driving. Drive carefully and safely.