Water head or siho’tun in Kayan can strike with fatal impact

File picture. Sarawak's interior with its mountains and rivers in Baram.

By Peter Sibon

KUCHING, Dec 6: Just what is water head, kepala air in Malay or siho’tun in Kayan?

According to Dennis Ngau, the assemblyman for Telang Usan, it is a sudden surge of a tsunami-like huge volume of a water body that occurs after a heavy downpour upriver.

And when it occurs especially at night, strangers who are resting on the river pebble beach or riverbanks, would be caught by surprise and the result would be fatal.

“Only locals would know the kind of sounds the siho’tun would make. And if you are not familiar with the phenomenon, you would think that it is just the sound of the flowing water without realising its fatal impact,” Dennis told DayakDaily today.


Dennis was commenting on the phenomenon which killed two security personnel at Sungai Melanah, a tributary of Sungai Apoh, located near Layun Camp, in Long Bedian sub-district, at 8pm on Thursday night. While six others managed to escape.

The eight were reportedly on routine operation along the 500km Sabah-Sarawak Gas Pipeline linking Kimanis in Sabah and Bintulu.

Their bodies were only recovered the next day, Friday (Dec 4) at 3pm. The victims were identified as Sergeant Simon Laja, 47, of the General Operations Force (GOF) based in Miri, was originally from Sungai Berangan, Sarikei, while the other victim, only known as Kemian, 50, a security guard at Layun Camp in Ulu Baram.

Dennis himself, who is from Long Bedian, had experienced such a phenomenon on two occasions when he was younger while hunting and fishing in the area.

“For us locals, we will never rest on the kerangan (pebble beach) either in the middle of the river or even on the riverbanks because we know siho’tun can strike anytime without warning even when it’s not raining in your location.

“And when it strikes and if those who are unfamiliar with the terrains and the surroundings, the result would be fatal as what had happened.

“For us, we will always find shelter on higher grounds,” said Dennis.

Dennis warned outsiders, especially those who are unfamiliar with the jungles in Baram area that if they are planning to have outdoor activities such as picnic, fishing and four-wheel drive adventure activities to engage the local people to be their guides.

“Nature has a lot of hidden secrets and even those who thought that they are experienced in outdoor activities could be caught by surprise.

“As a native of that area, please engage the local if you plan any outdoor activities in the jungles of Baram, in order to stay safe,” he said. — DayakDaily