Fleeing the rivers of mud

As the flood waters rushed in last Monday, he was not thinking of his favourite football or any money he had put aside.

Instead, 15-year-old Muhammad Azrul Arif had only one thing in mind to save: The educational certificates he and his siblings had earned over the years.

Azrul, who lives in the village of Banggol Nering in flood-ravaged Kelantan, said: "I figured that the certificates would be important for me if I want to enrol in a university in the future."

The youngster scrambled to retrieve the certificates before he and his elder brother were evacuated by a boat belonging to another villager. They went to his grandmother's house in a nearby village on higher ground.

The student and his uncle had rushed back to his house from Terengganu.

During the school holidays, which end tomorrow, Azrul was working part-time, helping his uncle sell food at a steamboat restaurant in University Technology MARA in Terengganu.

He said the sight of his house engulfed by flood waters shocked him.

"It was very scary, it is the first time that I have seen the waters rise so high," he said.

"My older brother and I first made our way to our grandmother's house, which is located on a hill,

"But when that too was engulfed by the floods, we had to evacuate to a tent which was set up further away in the forest."

In what is considered the worst floods to hit Malaysia in 30 years, large areas in the states of Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang have been inundated by flood waters.

The disaster has claimed 21 lives so far and has left thousands homeless.

Figures provided by Malaysia's Ministry of Communication and Multimedia reported that as of yesterday, a total of 44,081 people were still living in relief centres in Kelantan.

It was in one of those relief centres that Azrul's mother found herself.


Mrs Kartini Abdul Rahman, 39, was on her way to work last Monday when she had to evacuate to a nearby kindergarten that had been converted into a relief centre.

"It was quite bad at the relief centre, there wasn't enough food to eat," she said.

The speed at which the flood waters rose meant that many families had to flee with nothing but the clothes on their back.

Last Monday, Mr Lukmi Ismail, 41, had to push his mother and four young nieces and nephews through the waters on the cover of large polystyrene box, from their house in the town of Kuala Krai to a nearby Chinese temple.

When flood waters reached the temple, they took shelter at an electric company building on a nearby hill.

When The New Paper met them on Tuesday, they had just returned to their house in Kuala Krai to survey the damage and look for food.

"Right now, all we can think about is to clean our house and look for food," said Mr Lukmi's mother, Mrs Zainab Alias.

"Food now is more important than money."

Relief should reach the affected villagers soon, as aid from both the Malaysian government and volunteers is pouring into the area, thanks to the flood waters receding and the improved road access.

While she spoke to TNP, Mrs Kartini sat on the front porch of her house washing cups and plates in ankle-deep water.

"We don't have running water so all we can do now is sweep the mud from the house and use the flood water to wash the mud," she said.

Her two sons, aided by their father Muhammad Sazali Ismail, 41 were struggling to remove a mud-covered mattress from the second storey of the house, while her young nieces and nephews were splashing about in the water around her.

Said Mrs Kartini: "It's quite sad to see my house like this. I don't know if I want to live here anymore."

This article was first published on January 2, 2015.
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