No respite for Malaysian flood victims; number climbs to 53,000

People affected by flooding at an evacuation centre in Kota Tinggi, Johor, on March 5, 2023. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

There is no respite for flood-weary folks in Johor, Pahang and Melaka as the number of evacuees climbed to over 53,000 on Monday.

Johor is bearing the brunt of the floods as continuous pelting rain since early last week saw 49,500 people from 14,200 families seeking shelter at 270 temporary relief centres as at 8am on Monday. By 8.30pm, with some going back to their homes, the number had dipped slightly to 41,417.

Water levels of 14 rivers in seven districts breached the dangerous mark while 44 roads in eight districts including Segamat, Kota Tinggi, Kluang and Mersing are currently closed for all vehicles due to the floods.

The authorities and volunteers have been working around the clock to assist flood victims, including the Sultan of Johor, who dispatched three high-powered airboats to be used for food relief.

Johor Prince Tunku Abu Bakar Sultan Ibrahim piloted one of the boats on Sunday to deliver food supplies to some flood victims.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Chinese Association president Wee Ka Siong criticised the quality of food given to the victims.

In a video posted on his Facebook on Sunday, Datuk Seri Wee said evacuees in his Ayer Hitam constituency received small servings of food that arrived late and appeared to be lacking in nutrition.

Women, Family and Community Development Minister Nancy Shukri said on Monday that food caterers have been warned not to give subpar food to flood victims.

“Caterers admitted that the food given to evacuees was not good because they did not have enough ingredients. The floods have affected food supplies,” she said.

Despite the gloom, there are some bright spots. Water has started to recede in some areas in a few districts and people have started clean-up work. Some enterprising shop owners continue to do business, hawking flood-damaged wares at a 50 per cent discount.

“We hope for better weather in the coming days, which will allow the waters to recede faster,” said the Fire and Rescue Department’s deputy director-general (operations) Edwin Galan Teruki.

Fishermen in Kota Tinggi town in Johor are reporting an unexpectedly large haul of catfish and giant snakehead fish. “A flood of blessing,” a post on Facebook page Orang Kota-Tinggi said.

There have also been spontaneous acts of good deeds.

A post on video-sharing app TikTok showed a man holding on to a lifeline that he was using to ferry food across a raging swathe of flood waters.

Malaysian influencer Han Xiao Ai arranged for rescue boats to be sent to the worst-affected areas in Johor, and mobilised a team of volunteers to help distribute food and necessities to those who have evacuated their homes.

Through her Facebook page, she has managed to gather donations of water, milk, biscuits, towels and paracetamol.

As people look forward to a break in weather, the Johor government has started to make preparations for when the flood recedes. It has sent out an appeal for more than 2,000 volunteers to help with cleaning up homes, commercial premises and public facilities.

In response, Johor Democratic Action Party chairman Liew Chin Tong urged his party members to assist flood victims and volunteer for clean-up operations.

Neighbouring Pahang is still housing 3,000 victims from 850 families in 20 relief centres, while Melaka currently has 600 victims from 150 families housed in six centres.

The opposition Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition proposed that the government allocate at least RM300,000 (S$90,300) to all MPs whose constituencies are experiencing floods.

PN chairman Muhyiddin Yassin said this will enable aid to be immediately distributed to the victims.

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