More than 62,000 people still in relief centres in 7 flood-hit Malaysian states

Villagers and local authorities conducting a rescue operation in a flood-hit village in Shah Alam, Selangor, on Dec 19, 2021. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Cars and buildings inundadated by flood waters in Taman Sri Muda in Shah Alam, Selangor, on Dec 21, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - More than 62,000 people remained in relief centres in seven Malaysian states on Wednesday (Dec 22), six days after devastating floods swept through large parts of the peninsula leaving 33 people dead.

People were still being rescued from their deluged homes in Mentakab, one of the worst affected areas in the state of Pahang.

"Some residents are still trapped at their flood-hit homes and my service centre has made arrangements to move them to the nearest relief centres," Mentakab assemblyman Woo Chee Wan was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times daily.

The town in Pahang with around 42,000 people has been effectively cut off, with reports saying all main roads leading to it are completely inundated.

"Mentakab town is accessible only by boat and in some sections of the town, there are strong currents... almost 90 percent of the town is submerged," Mr Woo was quoted as saying.

As rescue operations continued, the authorities warned of the possibility of more bad weather, noting that the usual year-end monsoon season was far from over.

Rain on Wednesday morning raised water levels in some parts of Selangor, and officials were pleading with evacuees not to return home yet.

In some parts of the country where flood waters have receded, people have started leaving evacuation centres to return home to clean up the mess.

Twenty-two-year-old student Ahmad Aqil Abdul Hamid's home in Hulu Langat, Selangor, was engulfed by flood waters all the way up to the roof, destroying nearly all of his family's possessions.

"Almost everything is gone because the water reached the roof. I can say that all the electronic equipment is ruined," he told The Straits Times.

Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob in the meantime said electricity supply to flood-stricken areas would be restored only when waters have receded.

He said that power lines to 350 areas in the Klang Valley had to be cut by energy firm Tenaga Nasional.

"In the interest of public safety, Tenaga was forced to temporarily cut electricity supply because the water is still at dangerous levels. Short circuits can occur and cause fires," he wrote on Twitter.

Reflecting widespread public anger with the response to the disaster, a minister was berated at a flood shelter by a woman who said she was rescued by Indonesian migrants in their own boat and not by the authorities.

SPH Brightcove Video
Malaysia correspondent Ram Anand reports from Shah Alam to see how residents and authorities are coping with the devastation caused by the floods.

She was caught on video telling Entrepreneur Development and Cooperative Minister Noh Omar that she and her family were stranded on the roof of their house from midnight to 4.30am, and that calls were made to rescue agencies but none responded.

"We called every government agency, but no action was taken when we were in a critical situation.

"They came only when the water had receded. Why come only when the water has receded?" the woman told the minister who was visiting a flood relief centre in a school in Hulu Langat on Tuesday.

Activists distributing aid to residents of the flood-hit Taman Sri Muda in Shah Alam, Selangor, on Dec 22, 2021. PHOTO: BERNAMA

Activist Jemilah Mahmood on Wednesday joined the chorus of criticism on the lack of coordination in rescue efforts.

"Coordination that is so key is lacking… An urgent needs assessment is needed. To date, we have no idea how many are affected and how many are stranded," she was quoted as saying by The Star daily.

She also took an apparent swipe at politicians in a post on Instagram. "If you can fit someone in your boat with a cameraman rather than an affected person, then you have your priorities all wrong," she posted.

Netizens have mocked such "flood tourists" in recent days, referring to politicians and other VVIPs who have been posting about their visits to flood-hit areas that many critics said were unnecessarily using up resources that could have been used in rescue and recovery missions.

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