It’s like a war zone, Penang volunteers say of flood-hit Kelantan

by Himanshu Bhatt
The Malaysian Insider
4 January 2015

Scenes of devastation in flood-ravaged Kelantan have left Penangites who travelled there with aid convoys in shock and disbelief at the scale of the disaster.

Likening what they saw to a war zone, the volunteers said Malaysians needed to do more to help their fellow citizens rebuild their lives.

State executive councillor Danny Law Heng Kiang said the aftermath of the floods were worse than that of the tsunami, which hit Kedah and Penang 10 years ago in December 2004.

“I consider the effects of these floods on our country to be worse than that of the tsunami,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

“Following the tsunami, which only hit the shoreline, clearing and rebuilding began within three days,” he said.

“But two weeks after these floods started, it is a still a living nightmare for hundreds of thousands of people,” he said.

For example, most shops and businesses had their goods almost completely destroyed in the floods.

“It will take three months before rebuilding can be seen and businesses to have some semblance of normalcy,” he said.

He noted that flood levels rose quickly, in some areas up to several storeys high, and the water remained stagnant for days before subsiding. The putrid stench of rubbish and waste persists in affected areas, he added.

Satees Muniandy, a councillor with the Seberang Prai Municipal Council (MPSP), expressed concern that rural and remote areas appeared to be overlooked for aid compared with the more prominent towns.

He said relief from other parts of the country was not adequately reaching people who lived in villages, farms and the countryside.

“There is not much outside aid coming in to these places. Everybody is going to places like Kuala Krai and Kota Baru, while overlooking small towns like Tumpat which we visited,” he said.

“These towns and villages look like they have been in a war. I have never seen anything like this in my life.”

He said sanitation was of particular concern. “Toilets are not operational, and there is no running water.”

Satees said he was especially worried for children who were more susceptible to infectious diseases.

“People are homeless and just staying by the roadside, waiting for passers-by and aid workers to give some food.”

He added that in many places there were only roads left. Most cables, drains, pipes, transmission lines and buildings were severely damaged.

“Many neighbourhoods will have to be rebuilt from scratch,” he said. “Some of the houses have been washed away.”

Satees had gone there with the supply convoy consisting of a 40-foot container truck and three lorries organised by the MPSP councillors and staff.

They went to Tumpat on the northeastern corner of Kelantan and passed Gua Musang, Kuala Krai and Pengkalan Chepa.

“In one place I saw children waiting by the roadside and a lady holding an infant just a few months old hoping for some food,” he said. “I don’t know how they can survive like this.”

Satees said the flood victims were in dire need of dry food like biscuits that they can consume straightaway. They also need diapers, sanitary towels, non-prescription medication and other essential items.

“I wondered how they would rebuild their lives,” he said, adding that many families lost all their belongings like cars, crops, furniture and electrical items.

The floods in Peninsular Malaysia that started in mid-December also affected four other states – Terengganu, Pahang, Perak and Johor – and in total, more than 200,000 people were evacuated.

Martin Lim, who accompanied a Penang DAP convoy of 20 cars which brought rations to Kelantan, said he saw “helpless situations” in villages when people rushed out on seeing the passing convoys to get food.

“We could not give as much as we would have liked to because the food was limited and needed to be shared among many people,” said Lim, the chief of staff at the Penang DAP office.

He added that most places were also in total darkness during the nights due to power failure.

People slept along the roadsides, under makeshift canopies and beside campfires,” he said.

“We gave away many candles and torchlights, but I don’t know how they managed through the night,” he said.

Lim also said the area was like a “war zone”.

Except for those on high ground, none of the houses were spared. Those that were still standing were caked with mud, making it tough to clean.

Lim, however admired the resilience of the flood victims.

“They could still smile and were very thankful when we handed out the aid,” he said. – January 4, 2015.ay-of-flood-hit-kelantan#sthash.q4o54SAa.dpuf

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