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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Floods in Kelantan subside, but victims’ troubles far from over

Jobless villager Bakri ponders how he is going to support his family in the aftermath of the floods in Kelantan. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Hasnoor Hussain, December 31, 2014. Jobless villager Bakri ponders how he is going to support his family in the aftermath of the floods in Kelantan. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Hasnoor Hussain, December 31, 2014. 
When the floods came surging into Kampung Kuala Kelai, Pasir Mas, in the east coast state of Kelantan, on Wednesday, most villagers waded through the deep water to get to the nearest relief centre, but Rohana Dollah, 45, and her family ended up sleeping in their car for the next four nights instead.
Fears that their house and adjoining sundry store would be broken into spurred her to swim each day to and from the car – safely parked on a dry bridge a few kilometres away – to check on their house.
“I couldn’t leave the house, I was just too worried. Who knows what would happen to everything if we left it and stayed at the relief centre? People are so desperate they will resort to anything,” Rohana told The Malaysian Insider when met outside her home.
Her family of five had crammed into their Kancil and Nissan cars each night and survived on dry food and mineral water, before finally moving back into their home on Sunday when the flood began to recede.
For the past two days, they had been clearing their house of mud and throwing out ruined furniture, with no plans yet on how to move forward beyond simply cleaning the house.
Rebuilding lives
Rohana Dollah (right) who runs a sundry shop and her family slept in their cars when their house was submerged by the flood in Kampung Kuala Kelai in Pasir Mas, Kelantan.  – The Malaysian Insider pic by Hasnoor Hussain, December 31, 2014.Rohana Dollah (right) who runs a sundry shop and her family slept in their cars when their house was submerged by the flood in Kampung Kuala Kelai in Pasir Mas, Kelantan. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Hasnoor Hussain, December 31, 2014.The loss and confusion etched on Rohana’s face when asked how her family would recover from the flood’s devastation was a familiar response – every villager met by The Malaysian Insider was unsure how they would survive the coming days.
Replacing the furniture destroyed by the torrential floods was the last thing on their minds when even their next meal depended solely on the charity of others.
“I have no money, so I’m just going to survive with whatever I have. I work on my own, doing odd jobs, but there’s no work for me now,” said Ramli Derahman, 62.
“Even my packet of cigarettes was donated to me,” he said with a half-smile as he pulled the box out of his pocket.
Unlike Rohana, Ramli and his family had stayed at the nearby relief centre, but he had also swum back to his house every day to make sure that it hadn’t been swept away by the flood.
“It was exhausting, swimming against the current each day to check on my house. Well, my house is still standing, but all my furniture is gone. Ruined,” he said.
The situation was made worse by several traders’ unscrupulous profiteering, said Wan Hasan Wan Amrahman, 60.
“A bottle of water cost me RM5! One large candle was RM14!” he said with disgust. “But we have to buy it. What choice do we have?”
In Tanah Merah, a rubber tapper who only wanted to be known as Bakri had been out of work for a month even before the flood hit his home and washed away most of his belongings.
With nine children to bring up and no work forthcoming, he told The Malaysian Insider he was solely depending on the food from the relief centre where they were staying.
“I’m not sure how my children will go to school once it reopens. All their supplies are gone, and I don’t have any money to buy new uniforms and books,” he said when met outside his small wooden house, which was still surrounded by a pool of water.
Unregistered flood victims
The flood may have hit odd-job workers and rubber tappers the hardest, but even a teacher such as Othman Mat Zain, who has savings in the bank, has been going hungry for days as he sought refuge at a relative’s house while his own home was submerged by the flood.
School teacher Othman Mat Zain and his son take a break from cleaning their house after flood hit Taman Kota Harmoni in Tanah Merah. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Hasnoor Hussain, December 31, 2014. School teacher Othman Mat Zain and his son take a break from cleaning their house after flood hit Taman Kota Harmoni in Tanah Merah. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Hasnoor Hussain, December 31, 2014.He had opted not to stay at a relief centre to make room for those in more dire need of shelter, but soon learned that this meant no aid would be given to him and his family.
“No help for us! All the donations go straight to the relief centres and to the victims registered there,” said Othman when met outside his mud-filled house in the suburbs of Taman Kota Harmony.
“Even when we tried to stop them by the side of the road, these NGOs refuse to entertain our pleas for supplies. They don’t realise that we don’t have any money or food since all the ATM machines are not working and all the shops are closed.”
He said his children had resorted to eating dry packets of instant noodles to survive, while ingenuity helped them at night once they ran out of candles.
“We’ve got no electricity, and even the candles – overpriced as they are at RM8 a box – are sold out. So we had to improvise,” said Othman.
“We are using tissue drenched in cooking oil to provide us light at night.”
Number of evacuees reducing
According to Bernama, more people in Kelantan are returning to their homes to clean up and move back home as the flood subsides, with the number of flood victims at relief centres last night dropping by 15,546 by noon.
As of last night, there were 142,930 flood victims, with 29,531 in Kota Baru, 24,919 in Pasir Mas, 23,500 in Kuala Krai, 19,400 in Tanah Merah, 13,327 in Gua Musang, and 192 in Pasir Puteh. 
The declining trend was mirrored in neighbouring Terengganu, but the number of people displaced by the floods in Pahang and Johor are rising, the national news agency reported.
- TMI

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