Malaysians unite in Penang flood relief efforts

Exams go on in flood-hit Penang: It would have been the perfect excuse to skip school, but the floods in Penang did not deter these students from heading to SMK Datuk Haji Ahmad Said in Sungai Dua, Butterworth, yesterday to sit their Sijil Pelajaran
Exams go on in flood-hit Penang: It would have been the perfect excuse to skip school, but the floods in Penang did not deter these students from heading to SMK Datuk Haji Ahmad Said in Sungai Dua, Butterworth, yesterday to sit their Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia examinations, the equivalent of the O levels. They arrived in pickup trucks and lorries, wearing what dry clothes they had and walking on tables to get to their classrooms. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK
The view from a Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency helicopter shows the extent of the flood damage in a residential area in Penang yesterday. The number of evacuees in the state rose to 5,478. A resident making his way through a mud-filled road in
The view from a Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency helicopter shows the extent of the flood damage in a residential area in Penang yesterday. The number of evacuees in the state rose to 5,478. PHOTO: BERNAMA
The view from a Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency helicopter shows the extent of the flood damage in a residential area in Penang yesterday. The number of evacuees in the state rose to 5,478. A resident making his way through a mud-filled road in
Soldiers moving furniture and other items destroyed by floodwaters in George Town yesterday. Both federal and state agencies largely cooperated to contain the flood damage after an overnight storm in Penang that lasted 18 hours until Sunday.PHOTO: REUTERS
The view from a Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency helicopter shows the extent of the flood damage in a residential area in Penang yesterday. The number of evacuees in the state rose to 5,478. A resident making his way through a mud-filled road in
A resident making his way through a mud-filled road in George Town yesterday. Many people were still cleaning up their homes and assessing the damage to their property. PHOTO: REUTERS

Federal govt, volunteers rush to help after disaster leaves seven dead, 5,500 displaced

Volunteers, victims and politicians were united in dealing with disaster after Penang's worst flood in living memory claimed at least seven lives and displaced close to 5,500 people in the northern state.

Both federal and state agencies largely cooperated to contain the damage from up to 372mm of rain - 11/2 months' worth - that fell on parts of the state in an 18-hour overnight storm that lasted until Sunday morning.

In a visit to opposition-controlled Penang yesterday morning, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was accompanied by Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng when he announced that the army engineering corps would make emergency repairs to a broken bund on the Jarak River.

The damage was allowing water to continue spilling into Prai, the part of Penang located on the mainland, where floodwaters persisted despite relatively dry weather since Sunday.

"That is too long," Datuk Seri Zahid said of the Drainage and Irrigation Department's two-week estimate to repair the structure. "More rain might be coming. We will let the engineering corps tackle it."

Hundreds of volunteers from across Malaysia also began arriving in Penang, including those from fellow opposition-governed state Selangor, as well as Johor, a stronghold for the ruling party Umno.

Private companies rushed to send aid and volunteers, such as Klang-based logistics company Infinity, which sent a five-tonne truck to deliver drinking water and food.

In George Town, a surau leader faced criticism after turning the premises into an impromptu relief centre for 70 non-Muslims, some of whom were only partially clothed due to the floods.

"I don't care what people say, what is important is their lives are saved," the leader Sapno Tukijo, 50, was reported as saying.

 

At the Penang state legislature, an emergency motion on the flood gained unanimous support.

Assemblyman RSN Rayer said the tragedy was a "blessing in disguise" as it had brought people of different races, religion and political beliefs together, noting: "It shows our humanity regardless of political affiliations as everyone came together to help."

In Kuala Lumpur, there was some dispute in Parliament between the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry and Mr Lim on how much of a RM2.16 billion (S$700 million) flood management budget for Penang had been spent, but Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar told reporters that the issue should not be politicised.

Meanwhile, flood victims struggled to get their lives back in order, with help from across the country.

The country's power supplier Tenaga Nasional provided 30 mobile power generators to restore electricity to affected areas in the state, while soldiers made their way through floodwaters to supply food and basic amenities to stranded residents.

Some students rode on the back of rescue trucks to get to school to sit their Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia examinations, the equivalent of the O levels.

The number of evacuees in Penang rose to 5,478 yesterday evening from 3,779 on Sunday night. In neighbouring Kedah, 2,790 were also still displaced.

Many residents were still cleaning up their homes and assessing the damage to their property yesterday.

"The water was above waist level, higher than the dining table. The washing machine and fridge look like they are done for," Mr Izmil Amri, whose family lives in George Town, told The Straits Times.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 07, 2017, with the headline 'Malaysians unite in Penang relief efforts'. Print Edition | Subscribe