Malaysia is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country in Southeast Asia and one of the wealthiest and most developed countries, outranked in GNP only by Singapore and oil-rich Brunei. The Federation of Malaya became an independent country on 31 August 1957.
Although Malaysia has an equatorial climate, the narrowness and topographic configuration of each portion—central mountainous cores with flat, flanking coastal plains—facilitate the inland penetration of maritime climatic influences. The monsoons further modify the climate. The northeast monsoon brings heavy rain and rough seas to the exposed coasts of southwestern Sarawak and northern and northeastern Sabah, and it sometimes causes flooding in the eastern part of the peninsula. The southwest monsoon affects mainly the southwestern coastal belt of Sabah, where flooding is common. Neither peninsular nor insular Malaysia is in the tropical cyclone (typhoon) belt, but their coasts occasionally are subject to the heavy rainstorms associated with squalls.