Friday’s Lahad Datu “tornado” was like scenes from the movies, say witnesses

LAHAD DATU, March 17: Witnesses who saw swirling winds, resembling a tornado on Jalan Segama Industrial State, Batu 1, were stunned when they saw the violently rotating column of air for the first time in Lahad Datu and likened the experience to scenes from Hollywood movies.

Business owner Chia Tet Vui, 62, recounted the rare occurrence, saying that before the incident, the weather in the area was slightly overcast. Suddenly, a small whirlwind appeared, which then grew larger before dissipating just before heavy rain hit.

“I have been in business in this area for almost 31 years, and this is the first time my wife, children, and I have encountered such a whirlwind-like event. I was genuinely afraid when I saw it.

“The incident happened swiftly. It was around 1.30 pm and although the shop was briefly closed because it was Friday, I left the back door open and saw strong winds swirling around, accompanied by the sound of powerful gusts,” he told Bernama.

Lahad Datu district police chief ACP Rohan Shah Ahmad confirmed the occurrence of a whirlwind-like phenomena in the area, which lifted several pieces of zinc roof sheets from buildings. The rare occurrence was captured by members of the public before posting them on social media.

Chia added that as a result of the incident, several zinc sheets on his premises were ripped off and damaged. However, he was grateful that there were no casualties from the incident.

“At first, I was unaware that the zinc roof of my shop had been blown away. It was only later when heavy rain started coming into my shop that I realised what had happened. I immediately rushed to relocate the goods and patch up any leaks,” he said.

Another witness, housewife Malia Jalil, 50, who was at a nearby supermarket during the incident, expressed relief that all residents were safe and there were no injuries among them.

“It was terrifying, the whirlwind was so strong, lifting several pieces of zinc roofing from the shophouses and almost hitting some vehicles.

“I heard people shouting warnings about the tornado; it was a really unexpected experience,” she added.

Since yesterday, a 22-second video clip showing the zinc roofing of the shop row being lifted has been making the rounds on social media.