Storm disrupts closing ceremony for world kite fest
BINTULU: A storm created havoc among the audience and performers at the closing ceremony for the Bintulu International Kite Festival at the Old Bintulu Airport on Sunday.
The weather which had been fine all along suddenly changed when a strong wind blew around 11.30pm, and the storm it brought lasted about 30 minutes.
Dance choreographer Tuah Jili of Kumpulan Sri Budaya Bintulu said this had never happened before in his 20 years’ involvement with the industry.
Tuah when contacted was still traumatised and had applied for leave from duty as an officer with the Ministry of Social Development and Urbanisation (Cultural Section) Bintulu Office.
“This is an unforgettable moment for me and in my 20 years’ experience in stage shows and performances, I’ve never been in such a situation.
“There was no warning of the disaster as the weather was fine.
“But in a split second, I felt cold, and the wind started to blow gently … the strong wind knocked down the backdrops where my dancers were posing for a photograph after the results of the competition were announced,” he said.
“Thank goodness, the event had almost come to an end,” he added.
Tuah had felt uneasy before the weather changed.
He was scared when one by one the backdrop on the main stage, lighting equipment and canopy got destroyed.
“Since the site is an open space, we don’t know where to go to save our lives, the only thing I care about that time was the safety of my dancers,” said Tuah.
Hundreds of people in the audience ran for their lives.
Some got into their vehicles and others fled to a nearby building.
“There was no way we could hide under the canopy as the wind had blown it off. While running to my car with a few others, I saw various objects like zinc sheets flying through the air. I was hoping they would not hurt anyone,” he said.
Some 20 dancers were under Tuah’s responsibility that night and after the disaster, he tried to get in touch with his dancers who got separated in the commotion.
“Thankfully, all my dancers were safe but a few of them had minor injuries on their legs,” Tuah added.
He said as a leader in the team, he had to ensure all his dancers were safe.
“As a leader, I had to lead them and be calm. I have to do it even though I was shocked — only God knows how terrible I felt about the incident,” he said.
“But I believe something good will come from it — it is a test to all of us to be strong and patient in facing challenges. Money is not important, but lives are invaluable,” Tuah said.
He was relieved nobody among the audience was hurt in the incident.
Among the entertainers were singers from Peninsular Malaysia like Sheila N D Lala and others from Astro reality show, Academy Fantasia.