||The Penang Swimming Club dive
section, BSAC Branch 229 was also not spared. Located
at the basement of the swimming complex. The waves broke
the stain steel heavy door and swept through the dive
section storeroom damaging dive gears and the 2 compressors.
Several buoyancy compensators, scuba tanks and other accessories
were also dragged in the sea. “The water at the
coast receded about 75 metres into the sea before the
large waves hit us.
I was in the process of launching my boat when I saw the
sea ran away from me! I have never seen anything like this
before”, said Barry Siu, BSAC member witnessing the
destruction of his clubhouse and his boat.
When the scale of destruction emerged later in the day, anxiety
about the safety of the 2 dive boats and their crew were our
foremost concern. Desperate calls were made to the captains
of the boats but the calls were not answered – anxiety
grew and grew. But by the Grace of GOD – finally in
the evening, Captain Deon and Captain Christian replied. A
huge load lifted off my shoulder and I let down a loud sigh
of relief. What had happen was that, the captains, both being
good Christians, were at church for Sunday prayers and had
switched off their handphones, oblivious to the momentous
events unfolding around them. The boats being moored on the
South of the island were spare the onslaught of the Tsunami,
which hit mainly the North and the West of the island.
|In the aftermath of such destruction, both
Y C and I thought that it would be insensitive and inappropriate
to proceed with the expedition.
We had anticipated that Search and Rescue/ Recovery activities
would soon follow and thought that the least we could
do was to offer the 2 fully equipped vessels to augment
any such official rescue activity, if they are required.
Both the vessels are well known to the Malaysian authorities
especially the Mata Ikan, because the fully equipped diving
live-a-board vessels were frequently used by the BSAC Regional
Coach in Singapore, Y C Lee and the BSAC Technical diving
guru, Mr Jack Ingle as well as the Korean BSAC Clubs for dive
expeditions in the South China Seas for many years.
As it turned out, the authorities sent out a call for assistance
to both the vessels and I was glad to accept the help offered
as such facilities, were urgently needed but were in short
Search operations for victims of the Tsunami in Penang started
on Monday, the 27th December in the waters off Batu Ferringhi,
Swettenham Pier and Balik Pulau.
The search operation involved about 70 people, and is jointly
conducted by the northern region marine police and the Penang
Fire and Rescue Department. The Fire and Rescue Department
used two jet skis and two boats. Personnel from the Civil
Defence Department (JPA3) and police as well as villagers
were also assisting in the search. Being short handed and
having to cover a large geographic area of search, they were
happy to see the arrival of the boats and crew offered by
the BSAC Dive School.
I flew in to Penang from Singapore with some helpers to take
charge of the co-ordination. We were to assist in the search
and recovery operation in Pulau Betong area. The Mata Ikan
and the BARAM conducted search and survey work as well as
to act as the “Mother Boats”, while the two inflatable
tenders combed the coastal areas and were used to support
divers searching all the sunken structures in the water looking
for drowned bodies. The operation was far from easy. The water
is shallow at about 8 metres however the visibility is near
zero. What makes it worst is the muddy seabed must have been
churned up by the large wave exposing decomposed substance
buried for long time making the water very smelly. The divers
also had to deal with a bloom of stinging jellyfishes clouding
the muddy waters.
Responding to a call from a member of the public, at 9.05am
on Tuesday, the Fire Department rushed to the sea off Swettenham
Pier in inner George Town, with its speedboat Dolphin 02 to
recover the body of a girl. She was wearing a blue t-shirt
and dark jeans and she is believed to be aged 10 and 11. She
was found about 1.5 kilometres from Swettenham Pier. A second
body of a man wearing dark slacks and light coloured t-shirt,
was also found near the North Butterworth Container terminal
(NBTC) at Seberang Perai at 10.01am. The two bodies were sent
to the Penang Hospital for post-mortem.
The Mata Ikan and the Baram were released from duty and returned
to their berth. The captains and the crew headed for hot bath,
a good scrub and a well deserved rest.
|On Wednesday and Thursday,
the helicopter unit also helped in the search. On Wednesday
the body of a small boy, about 5 years old, was found
near the coast among the rocks.
By Thursday, most of the affected areas have been covered
and it was felt that further efforts would not be fruitful.
It was decided that most of the active units be stood
down until their help is further required.
As for the Penang Swimming Club BSAC 229, the Chairman, Mr
Teow Siang Nam told us that their members are now taking turns
in helping to repair and restore the dive club equipment and
Our heart goes out to them but with the BSAC spirit we have
no doubt that they will rise again to dive another day.
BSAC OWI NO. 3736
MATA IKAN DIVE SCHOOL (BSAC NO. 0395)