Lutong Flood of 1980-1981

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In late December 1980, the weather had been relentless on Mirians and Lutongites. Strong winds, torrential rain, and heavy swells in the seas were incessant, the constant heavy rains causing water from the Miri River to burst its banks and flow into Lutong, causing flood levels to rise about 2 to 3 feet in most parts of Lutong. It had been a king tide phenomenon.

As most Shell housing located in Lutong were built on stilts, they were safe from the rising waters. The flood levels had risen to almost exactly the point where the floor is, as if either the water seemingly knowing when to stop rising, or that the designers of the living quarters knew exactly where floodwaters will stop rising. Most people are not so lucky however, as a lot of cars had engines submerged and/or damaged. Sampans and motorboats were seen buzzing throughout where it used to be dry land, a surreal feeling for those cooped up in their houses, unable to go anywhere.

The Shell refinery had its perimeter sandbagged to prevent it from having to be shut down, while in the Shell offices itself, the computer room within were either damaged by the flood or were damaged by the dust caused by it. The Lutong airfield, which was located on the peninsula in between the Miri river and the sea, was completely inundated by the floodwaters.

Elsewhere, Miri itself was also affected. Pujut Corner and Kampung Pangkalan were the worst affected, where waters were recorded to rise as much as 10 feet and 6 feet each. A section of the Miri-Bintulu Road collapsed, disrupting not only traffic but it also broke the water mains and water supply into Miri town were become disrupted. The Miri Ferry had stopped operating due to safety concerns, and on 13th January of 1981, a landslide occurred on a section of Canada Hill which resulted in four casualties.

As a result of this flood, improvements to drainage were made in Lutong and access river flow was diverted alongside the Lutong airfield to ease off the build up of water around the Miri River.

Pictures courtesy of Sarawak Shell Berhad.