KERDAU - Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai was mobbed by more than 100 villagers when he chugged in on a train with much needed supplies for a village here that was all but cut off by the floods.
The villagers, numbering about 600, have been without electricity and clean water for days and were running out of food when Liow, who is also the MCA president, made the supply run.
Heavy flooding resulted in impassable roads and the only way into the area in Temerloh, Pahang, was via a single railway track.
Pulled by a locomotive usually employed for maintenance work, the train set off from Mentakab, some 13km away.
Tugging a single carriage that was packed with the supplies and a dozen reporters, the train completed the journey in about 30 minutes.
It was a bumpy ride and on both sides of the track were submerged palm oil plantations and houses.
As soon as the train stopped, the villagers rushed out to greet Liow.
"We have been without food for four days. Our grocery stores have all run out of stock," said housewife Soo Xin Ying, 40, who was among them.
She said that they also had to collect rainwater to drink.
Pointing to one of the swamped roads to Mentakab, salesman Tan Ah Chai, 27, said: "It is like we are on an island and can't get out."
Many homes in the village were unaffected by the floods but some residents, including retiree Lee Yok Lan, 71, were not so lucky.
"The rain came on Friday and my house was flooded on Saturday," she said.
Another retiree, Siti Anah Abdul Manan, 72, had to take refuge at the village mosque along with 56 other villagers.
"The floods are not as bad as those in the 1970s but I never thought it would happen to me," she said.
At about noon, Liow reboarded the train to make his way to Kuala Krau, parts of which was also cut off by the floods.
Along the way, several people tried to flag down the train in an attempt to flee but there was no space on board for them at the time.
Others were seen pushing motorcycles along the track because the roads running parallel were underwater.
At Kuala Krau, Liow met a family whose 72-year-old patriarch died during the disaster.
According to the man's son-in-law, Yap Che Ming, 48, he apparently collapsed from exhaustion after trying to clean his flooded house.
"The MCA is arranging for a coffin to be brought in from Jerantut," Yap said.
On the return journey to Mentakab, the train took aboard several people who were desperate to leave the area.
"I am afraid that if I stay I will die," said retiree Lim Kiuk, 81, after he climbed into the carriage.
Rubber tapper Rozaini Mustafa, 44, who also boarded, said he had to take his son Mohd Daud, 11, to Mentakab to have his circumcision wound cleaned because the clinic in his town was completely submerged.
Speaking to reporters in Mentakab later, Liow said Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd was running the train twice a day to Kerdau and Kuala Krau for the benefit of the people there.
"We are going to increase this to six times a day if possible," he said.
He also said five boats from the Marine Department had been mobilised to assist people in the Temerloh district, with two more to be sent to Kota Bahru to work with Health Ministry personnel.
"I have also asked all MCA divisions to go into the interior to help," Liow said.
He added that about 19,875 people were affected in Temerloh.