Rescuers scramble to save Malaysia's flood victims as blame game starts

The armed forces, police and other agencies scrambled to save those who were still trapped in their homes. PHOTO: XINHUA
A couple cleaning their house after the flooding a day earlier in Kuala Langat, Selangor, on Dec 20, 2021. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
The armed forces, police and other agencies scrambled to save those who were still trapped in their homes. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - Three days after torrential rain caused severe flooding in eight Malaysian states, at least eight people have died and over 61,000 been displaced, while some victims were still stranded on Monday (Dec 20) with no food or electricity.

Ten people, including a child, are feared missing in Pahang.

Those at temporary shelters in the affected states also face the risk of Covid-19 infection. At least 181 cases have been detected among the evacuees.

"The Health Ministry expects that due to this flood disaster, there may be an increase in cases," Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin was quoted by The Star Daily as saying.

This was because evacuation had to be done in a very high-risk situation where some public health measures could not be fully implemented, he said.

The armed forces, police and other agencies scrambled to save those who were still trapped in their homes on Monday, while volunteer groups and individuals also pitched in.

Kembara Kitchen is working around the clock and has distributed some 1,500 hot meals and 3,000 packed meals to flood victims.

"We are working with the first responders to get packed meals to those still stranded and can be reached only by boats. We are also working with authorities to distribute hot meals to shelters which lack food," Kembara Kitchen co-founder Chan Yi Lyn told The Straits Times.

The blame game has started with some Malaysians saying that there was no warning given by the authorities and that rescue efforts were too slow, with the hashtag #KerajaanPembunuh (Killer Government) trending on Twitter.

"Many people died because of you and your people's negligence. If y'all really took emergency action before and had warned the people, this wouldn't have happened," Twitter user NJJM wrote.

More than 30 boats were used to rescue flood victims in Taman Sri Muda, Shah Alam, one of the worst-affected areas where residents were still awaiting rescue as at Monday.

Klang MP Charles Santiago said many families were trapped on the roofs of their homes because water levels were still high and dangerous, and criticised the government for being slow to activate rescue and aid efforts.

The government's "excuse that the water level is too high and preventing rescue work and food distribution is unacceptable. The government has so many assets such as boats, helicopters and professionally-trained teams".

Democratic Action Party (DAP) MP Ong Kian Ming posted on Facebook that he used two of his own kayaks to carry out rescue missions in Taman Sri Muda from Sunday.

He said it was a challenge as the residential area had more than 10,000 residents and was submerged in water up to 2.4m high. He managed to rescue about 40 people.

Opposition MPs in Parliament raised questions over why the authorities were so ill-prepared for the devastating floods.

DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said: "This has affected thousands of victims... Some have taken refuge on their roofs, and this is happening in the Klang Valley, the most developed area in Malaysia."

Amanah MP Mohamad Sabu said his constituency of Kota Raja in Klang was also badly affected, and that there were not enough boats.

"I don't know what the prime minister is doing. Even on the second day, there was no help," he was quoted as saying by the Free Malaysia Today online news website.

Meanwhile several convenience shops in the flooded part of Taman Sri Muda  were reportedly broken into.

“The incidents were believed to have happened today between 1pm and 2pm. We have mobilised our crime prevention teams, with assistance from the General Operations Force, to the affected areas,” Shah Alam OCPD Assistant Commissioner Baharudin Mat Taib told The Star.

Netizens have accused Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob's son-in-law Jovian Mandagie of using a government helicopter to escape the flood while others remained stranded. But he denied this on his Instagram account, saying that it was a commercial helicopter.

"I did not use the government's assets, I will not use something that is not my right. You all want to curse me, go ahead but that is slander."

The Klang Valley saw what has been described as a one-in-a-100-year heavy rainfall from Friday, due to a tropical depression.

It has stopped raining in most parts of Peninsular Malaysia since Sunday. No heavy rain was expected on Monday.

The Stormwater Management And Road Tunnel (Smart) in Kuala Lumpur was closed late Saturday, diverting 5 million cubic metres of flood water.

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