Premier Najib cuts short US trip to oversee flood response in Malaysia

Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak attends the formal session of the ASEAN-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit in Busan on Dec 12, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak attends the formal session of the ASEAN-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit in Busan on Dec 12, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak will return home from the United States to continue overseeing the response to the floods in five northern states which has killed five and displaced thousands.

The prime minister had come under fire after photos showed him golfing with US President Barack Obama in Hawaii even as Malaysia's worst flooding in decades forced more than 100,000 people to flee, reports said.

As local media carried photographs of people wading through flood waters and entire houses submerged, the Najib government faced criticism for not declaring a state of emergency to help devastated communities.

"The Prime Minister has decided to return from the United States to oversee the emergency response to the floods, and will land in Kelantan on Saturday," a government spokesman said according to a statement issued by the prime minister's office on Friday.

Upon arrival, Datuk Seri Najib will chair a meeting and receive briefings from the National Security Council, the National Disaster Management and Relief Committee, the state government and local emergency responders, the statement added.

The Prime Minister will also meet people affected by the flooding and discuss new measures to support those who have been displaced.

"During his time abroad, the Prime Minister received daily updates on the situation, and spoke to the Deputy Prime Minister to instruct the National Disaster Management and Relief Committee to step up their efforts to assist those affected by the floods," the statement said. "Following recent reports that the situation had continued to worsen, the Prime Minister felt it was necessary to return to personally oversee the response."

 "I am deeply concerned by the floods. I feel for the people who have lost their homes, and the families who have lost loved ones," Mr Najib was quoted as saying in the statement.

   Seasonal flooding hits Malaysia every year and regularly forces tens of thousands from their homes, but the latest round has forced the authorities to evacuate more than 100,000 in seven states, mostly in the north-east, state news agency Bernama reported.

A total of 105,568 people have been displaced in Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Perak, Kedah, Perlis and Johor, surpassing the previous record of 100,000 people evacuated during floods in 2008.