KUALA LUMPUR - More than 7,000 people in Malaysia's east coast states of Kelantan and Terengganu were in relief shelters on Sunday (Dec 20) morning due to flooding caused by days of heavy rains during the annual monsoon season.
The flooding worsened in the last few days, forcing the evacuation of villagers to more than 60 shelters in the two states, Bernama news agency reported.
There were 7,308 evacuees at 8am on Sunday, higher than 6,627 on Saturday evening.
The temporary relief centres include public and school halls, and evacuees might have to remain there for several days to several weeks.
Officials are closely monitoring water levels in major rivers in these states and would issue evacuation orders if levels rise above their stipulated "danger level" during the rainy season.
The level of a major river in northern Kelantan, Sungai Golok, for example, was at a depth of 10.43m at 8am on Sunday, above its danger level of 10m.
In next-door Terengganu state, the district police chief of Hulu Terengganu town, Deputy Superintendant Mohd Adli Mat Daud reminded people not to treat the flood as a "water carnival", as he has seen many villagers especially children playing in the floodwaters.
He said while flooding is an annual occurrence, the situation can be unpredictable as water currents can be swift and deadly.
The authorities in Kemaman town in Terengganu told Bernama on Saturday how they rescued a man after a scooter he and his friend were riding on was swept away by strong currents.
"One of the victims managed to save himself while the other was stuck on a tree. One (civil defence) member then tied a rope around his body and swam against the strong currents to rescue the victim," Civil Defence captain Mohd Suhaimi Awang told Malaysia's national news agency.
And on Saturday afternoon, a small Perodua car was swept away by strong currents in Terengganu, with the driver quickly rescued by villagers.
Parts of Malaysia, especially the east coast states on Peninsular Malaysia, are hit annually by heavy monsoon rain, with the worst case in recent years occurring from December 2014 to January 2015, when more than 200,000 people were evacuated to flood relief centres.