Desperate flood victims in Malaysia turn to looting supermarkets

An aerial view of Pengkalan Chepa in the morning of Dec 27, 2014. -- PHOTO: THE STAR PUBLICATION
An aerial view of Pengkalan Chepa in the morning of Dec 27, 2014. -- PHOTO: THE STAR PUBLICATION

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - In the face of adversity, some people showed their ugly side out of desperation but Malaysians are proving to be courageous and compassionate.

An IT engineer, who wanted to be known only as Jack, told The Star that victims affected by the floods were desperate due to a shortage of food and clean water.

"They are trapped in an 'island'. They cannot go out of Kota Baru to get food," he said, adding that there were not enough boats to bring in donated supplies in time.

According to him, the situation escalated quickly from small scuffles for foodstuff to blatant stealing.

A victim from Kuala Krai, Tan Tiong Lee, 61, said most of them from the area were left hungry as they were trapped by the floodwaters.

"The water level rose rapidly, as much as a metre an hour. Initially, we only expected the worst case being waters reaching our knees," he said.

To his surprise, Tan was left trapped on the roof of his house three hours later, waiting for help.

He said incidents of looting occurred because residents were not prepared due to the unexpected severity of the disaster.

"We cannot blame these people. We were so hungry that even expired bread looked appetising.

"Water was so scarce we only had enough to clean ourselves once every three days," said Tan.

He said he had heard other victims mentioning that supermarkets were broken into for liquefied petroleum gas and foodstuff.

"The looters could only enter through the second floor as the ground floor was submerged in water," Tan claimed.

He said that despite the bad incidents, there were victims who went all out to help others in Kuala Krai.

"A Malay warung (small family-owned business) nearby is collecting and cooking all the donated supplies for the whole village," said Tan, who is temporarily staying with a friend.

Tan also said he and several other villagers rented a boat for RM50 (S$19) every evening and helped the warung owner distribute food to houses and flood relief centres.

The situation in the village improved on Saturday with emergency supplies slowly reaching the village.