In Kelantan, desperate flood victims loot homes for food and fresh water

by Melissa Chi
Malay Mail Online
December 27, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 27 ― Grim conditions facing flood victims in Kelantan are driving a man here to consider renting a helicopter to fly aid to his family trapped by the deluge in the state.

Fearful of the dangers brought by the inundation that has already claimed seven lives and forced over 100,000 people from their homes, Ryonn Leong is mulling the drastic measure to reach his sister, elderly parents, younger brother and his pregnant wife, and their two-year-old daughter marooned in Kuala Krai.

The menace is also not purely elemental; desperation born of hunger and thirst has prompted some flood victims to begin looting homes for food and drink, risking unintended confrontations with owners yet to evacuate their property.

“Just few minutes ago, there are cases where people are breaking into houses to steal food and valuables too. This are caused mainly by food scarcity,” he told Malay Mail Online via text yesterday.

“(The) situation is getting tense as there are areas which people starting to fight for food and loot houses that are empty.”

In wicked irony, one item that is painfully scarce for victims surrounded by the floods is clean water for drinking. According to Leong, one mother in the Kelantan town was now forced to use rainwater to mix the infant formula for her six-month-old.

While some like Leong’s family have managed to find shelter on higher ground, they are cut off from rescuers and have exhausted their supplies. Aside from a lack of water supply, the electricity has been turned off for the past four days.

“I know these people and there is no access for now and the area had very strong current. A helicopter went to their area, but was unable to locate the place,”

Leong said his brother has now located a possible landing spot, prompting him to consider hiring the helicopter.

Seventy kilometres away, Nurul Nadia Mohd Din’s parents and five siblings in Pasir Mas were among the over 30,000 in Kelantan evacuated from their homes. They have been staying at a nearby school since Thursday evening.

The 26-year-old, who is also in KL, said her sister told her the water rose as high as chest level at their home. Nurul added that phone communication was erratic, but she has managed to stay in contact with her family there.

Evacuation was hurried due to fast rising waters, forcing the family to leave before it became too dangerous.

“None of their belongings could be saved,” she lamented.

But unlike Leong’s family, conditions were comparatively better at the relief centres despite what Nurul’s father told her was overcrowding and a lack of both power and water supply.

The relief centre has sufficient food and more donated items were arriving as the school remained accessible.

Her mother said they had rice, canned sardines and egg for dinner.

Another Kelantan native, Justin Chua, said he was stranded for five hours at the Sultan Ismail Petra Airport in Kota Baru after arriving there yesterday from Kuala Lumpur.

Likening the scene to a “zombie apocalypse”, with petrol kiosks nearly drained of fuel and some supermarkets cleaned out of canned food, the 29-year-old categorised conditions as dire.

“The way I see, the next two days will be critical. Most young people from other states are coming back to help the old folks at their home,” he said.

Chua said that while he was fortunate as his family home has escaped the floods for now, his uncle, aunt, 97-year-old grandmother and cousins are prepared to evacuate at any moment.

“I’m lucky as my place is one of the few places that are still intact. Relatives came for shelter. But I’m afraid those from more rural areas really need help. Not from safety perspective but food and water are what they need.

“Honestly speaking, if the water reaches here, the government has to declare an emergency state.”

As of 7am, 105,812 people have been evacuated from their homes in Terengganu, Kelantan, Pahang, Perak, Johor, Perlis, Selangor, and Kedah.

Five deaths were recorded in Kelantan and two in Terengganu.

The extent of the worst flooding in decades has been such that Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is overseeing the government’s flood relief efforts, has warned that floods are worse than anticipated, saying that assets currently deployed were inadequate to face the floods of such proportions.

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