Malaysia floods: Selling their wares dirt cheap

Malaysia floods: Selling their wares dirt cheap

As flood waters continue to subside after the worst floods to hit Malaysia in 30 years, there are signs that life in Kota Baru, Kelantan - one of the most ravaged areas - is returning to normal.

When The New Paper team visited the state capital on New Year's Day, shopkeepers were trying to make the best of their situation. We saw them pile their mud-covered goods on the five-foot-way and sell them at a discount.

Standing in her Wellington boots, a shopkeeper in her 50s was hawking bras that had been soiled by mud.

Although the bras were dirty, it did not stop a few interested passers-by from flipping through them.

Perhaps the RM1 (S$0.40) price tag for each bra was an enticing factor.

Street vendors had also returned, with their tiny stalls selling produce such as chicken, fruits and packets of "nasi air dingin" (a local favourite consisting of rice, gravy and a choice of chicken or fish), next to ankle-deep mounds of mud.

"I started selling again on Sunday, after closing for three days," said a nasi air dingin seller, Mrs Maheran Mohammad Noor.

"I think I lost RM200 to RM500 during the floods," added the 38-year-old, who buys the packets of rice from a supplier in Kota Baru.

"But since I reopened, I had to order an extra 100 packets (over the last four days) because people just needed food."

Other shops may have put their shutters up but many had their hands full just cleaning up.

On the road in front of almost every shop, large piles of mud-caked rubbish were left for the city cleaners to clear.

Some shopkeepers still had to take stock of the damage before they could even start the clean-up.

"I am not going to touch anything yet," said the manager of Kelantan Silk Store, which sells fabrics, who wanted to be known only as Mr Lee, 43.

Assess damage

"I am going to wait for my big boss in Kuala Lumpur to come with an auditor to properly assess the damage before I start to clean up." When we met him, he was overseeing the repair of the shutters of the two-storey shop.

Mr Lee, who is originally from Kuala Lumpur but has been living in Kelantan for over 30 years, reinforced what we had heard over and over again during this trip.

"I didn't expect the floods to be this bad this year. Usually, the water level would reach the ankle, this was the first time ever that it got so high," he said.

Though the roads around Kota Baru were open, many of them were still caked in a layer of mud that had been left behind when the waters receded.

In the blazing midday sun, the combination of drying mud and heavy traffic resulted in clouds of dust being kicked up in the air, forcing pedestrians and motorcyclists to cover their mouths and noses.

City cleaners could be seen shovelling mud off the streets and pavements, and into heavy vehicles for it to be taken away.

With over 44,081 people staying in relief centres, Kelantan still has a long way to go on the road to recovery, but if the work that we saw in Kota Baru is any indication, the residents are slowly but surely on their way.

maazman@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on January 3, 2015.
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