Sarawak rural roads turn mud traps

Source: http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2007/1/4/nation/16462000&sec=nation

Thursday January 4, 2007

Sarawak rural roads turn mud traps

By STEPHEN THEN

MIRI: Rural roads spanning the huge expanse of Sarawaks interior have become treacherous due to incessant rain.

Drivers of light vehicles and those who are not familiar with the rural terrain have been warned not to venture into these territories or risk getting stuck in metre-deep rivers of mud in the middle of nowhere.

Some of these remote villages are located as far as 400km from the nearest urban centre.

BaKelalan state assemblyman Nelson Balang Rining, who just returned from a tour of several interior districts in his constituency, said most of these rural roads were not passable anymore to small, low-suspension vehicles.

Heavy rain occurs every day in the interior now, especially in the hilly and mountainous regions, he said.

The timber tracks connecting interior settlements to the outside world are not passable to small vehicles. These roads have turned into rivers of mud.

Only heavy-duty vehicles with high-suspension wheels can cross these areas. Even four-wheel drive vehicles can get stuck in the muddy mess.

He said he saw many vehicles that were stuck and which had to be pulled through deep mud by huge timber trucks.

Navigating these interior areas by land is treacherous at this time, he warned. Many folks living in scattered settlements dare not venture out to the towns and cities by land.

It is difficult to seek help if one gets stuck far away from populated villages.

Asked how these folks commute to the towns for their daily supplies, he said many had resorted to using rivers.

To another question, Balang said there was still enough food and fuel in the interior at the moment.

Asked if there had been any floods or landslides in his constituency, he said he had yet to receive any report of such incidents.

There are more than 10,000km of timber roads all over rural Sarawak, snaking through some two million hectares of logging concession zones and oil palm plantations and agriculture estates, and connecting some 5,000 rural settlements to the outside world.