Mammoth cleanup after Malaysia floods

Excavators remove books destroyed by floods at the warehouse of a bookshop in Sri Muda, Shah Alam, on Jan 4, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS
A destroyed vehicle is seen at a residential neighbourhood after floodwaters subsided, in Sri Muda, Shah Alam, on Jan 4, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS
Excavators remove books destroyed by floods at warehouse of a book shop in Sri Muda, Shah Alam, Malaysia on Jan 4, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - After a series of floods swept most of Peninsular Malaysia for almost three weeks, some victims have begun the mammoth task of cleaning up.

Food truck vendor Rahman Sarif and his family have spent more than a week cleaning their house in Sungai Buloh, Selangor, with the little resources they have.

"We stayed up for more than 24 hours on the first day of cleaning. It is super tedious and extremely laborious - there's just so much that needs to be done. This includes moving everything out before we can start cleaning the house and throwing away everything that we can't keep," Mr Rahman, 44, told The Straits Times.

"We spent the first few days (after the water receded) cleaning the interior, moving items in and out, as well as (doing) laundry. Cleaning work has to be done quick before the mud dries up. It would be more difficult to clean if that happens," he added.

Mr Rahman said he had to throw out almost all electrical goods, such as the washing machine, television and laptops. He estimated his losses to be at least RM40,000 (S$13,000).

He is among tens of thousands of Malaysians who are now picking up the pieces after returning to their homes.

They were evacuated during the floods in mid-December 2021, when the country experienced the heaviest rainfall in the past 100 years. Eight of the 11 states in Peninsular Malaysia were affected by the floods.

A total of 12,460 people were still at relief centres on Wednesday (Jan 5), down from 60,000 on Dec 20.

As at Wednesday, at least 54 people had died while two were still missing.

Torrential rain pummelling Malaysia during the New Year period had also caused floods in seven states on Sunday (Jan 2).

Residents living in coastal areas, especially on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia, were advised to be on alert for a four-day high tide phenomenon expected from Sunday.

Based on local news reports, post-flood waste has tripled to 1,500 tonnes daily, from the usual 500 tonnes.

Volunteers from various groups helping to clear the area and houses due to the floods at Jalan Mutiara, Selangor, on Dec 25, 2021. PHOTO: THE STAR

Selangor was one of the areas worst hit by the mid-December deluge.

"We're almost done with cleaning but our worry now is transportation. We had to send our car to a workshop to see whether it can still be salvaged or not," said Mr Rahman.

GoMechanic, a car service platform provider, said there are more than 30 cars that are currently in their panel workshops for post-flood repairing.

"It's the peak time for workshops as many flood victims are trying to repair their vehicles. Most of the vehicles we are handling now were covered in mud when we towed them to our panel workshops," said representative Israf Musa.

"Some need to be overhauled as mud has already made its way into the valves and so on," he added.

Meanwhile, the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma) has ordered the state and district-level disaster operation control centres in Sarawak and Sabah to make preparations, including activating on-site control posts, to face the possibility of floods.

The order was issued following a forecast by the Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia) of a monsoon surge capable of bringing continuous rain. 

A worker cleans a car submerged by floods at Sri Muda, Shah Alam, on Jan 4, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

The authorities have also warned the public not to turn the flood situation into a "festival" by ignoring safety aspects.

This came after several TikTok videos of people swimming in floodwaters made their rounds on social media.

"Some people turn it into a fest without any apprehension by making TikTok videos on social media. This is very risky because safety is neglected," Johor Fire and Rescue Department Zone 4 head Rasidi Md Yunos told reporters on Tuesday.

"This includes not wearing personal protective equipment and safety jackets, as well as letting their young children play in the water. This kind of thing should not happen," he added.

The Meteorological Department on Tuesday announced the end of the continuous heavy rain warning, adding that good weather was expected in the states of Terengganu, Pahang, Negeri Sembilan, Melaka and Johor. The continuous downpour alert remained in force for five districts in Sabah.

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