Thousands evacuated as heavy rain and strong winds hit Malaysia

Children, undaunted by floodwater, playing in front of the Kampung Tasik flood relief centre in Setiu, Terengganu, on Saturday. MetMalaysia issued a heavy rain warning for the state and Pahang yesterday, and said it expected moderate rain to continue
Children, undaunted by floodwater, playing in front of the Kampung Tasik flood relief centre in Setiu, Terengganu, on Saturday. MetMalaysia issued a heavy rain warning for the state and Pahang yesterday, and said it expected moderate rain to continue in parts of Kelantan, Pahang, Johor and Sabah until tomorrow.PHOTO: FOTOBERNAMA

KUALA TERENGGANU • Heavy rain, strong winds and rising sea levels persisted in Malaysia over the weekend, with Kelantan and Terengganu suffering the brunt of the wet weather as schools shut and thousands were evacuated to relief centres.

The Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia) issued a "red stage", or heavy rain warning, for Terengganu and Pahang yesterday, and said it expected moderate rain to continue in parts of Kelantan, Pahang, Johor and Sabah until tomorrow.

Kelantan state was worst hit by rising waters, with some 10,000 people evacuated from their homes as of 5pm yesterday and 21 schools to remain shut today.

Water levels at Sungai Golok, a river on the Kelantan border with Thailand, remained at more than 10m yesterday morning, far exceeding its danger level of 9m.

Meanwhile, neighbouring Terengganu state was forced to close 27 schools yesterday, affecting nearly 6,000 students. The school week in Terengganu runs from Sunday to Thursday to respect the Muslim holy day of Friday.

State Education Department director Shafruddin Ali Hussin said yesterday: "Many of the schools had been inundated by flood waters. Some roads linking to the schools had been cut off, while other schools were used as evacuation centres."

As of yesterday afternoon, some 3,000 people were staying at relief centres across the state.

MetMalaysia expects strong north-easterly winds of between 50kmh and 60kmh and waves as high as 4.5m in the sea off Kelantan and Terengganu to last until today.

These conditions are considered dangerous for all coastal and shipping activities, including fishing and ferry services.

Strong winds in the coastal areas of Sabah, Pahang and east Johor are also expected to continue until today, causing high tides and waves of up to 3.5m, and making it hazardous for small boats, recreational activities and seasports.

Malaysia's civil defence force has warned the public to stay away from the beach, and warned parents to keep an eye on their children.

Terengganu civil defence chief Che Adam Abdul Rahman said: "The rip current will just drag anyone to the middle of the sea."

THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, BERNAMA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 23, 2017, with the headline 'Thousands evacuated as heavy rain and strong winds hit Malaysia'. Print Edition | Subscribe