34,000 evacuated as floodwaters continue to rise in Malaysia

Floods in Malaysia this year are shaping up to be one of the worst since 2007, with more than 34,000 people evacuated so far and water levels continuing to rise in Johor, Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan.

By on Wednesday evening, the Johor authorities had evacuated 8,402 people from districts in the north and east of the state - Mersing, Batu Pahat, Muar, Kota Tinggi, Kluang and Segamat - to 57 relief stations statewide.

"We are still evacuating a few hundred people or maybe more tonight," said a spokesman for the Johor disaster relief operations centre.

In Mersing, invigilators carrying test papers for Malaysia's equivalent of the O-level examination travelled by military vehicles to reach schools, as some routes were passable only to heavy vehicles, according to Bernama. However, officials said no students were prevented by the floods from sitting their exams.

Some delegates attending Umno's general assembly in Kuala Lumpur, however, left mid-way to return to their flooded east coast home towns, the New Straits Times reported.

In Pahang, 63,000 people were left without power as water flooded electrical substations.

The floods claimed its first victim on Monday night. A 17-year- old boy was swept away while fishing with his father in a river in Terengganu. Local media said a child is also missing.

The number of evacuees has nearly doubled from the same time last year. During the worst of the floods in December last year, about 22,000 people were moved from Johor, Terengganu, Kelantan and Pahang. Seven people died.

One of the worst floods in recent memory took place in January 2007, when 118 people died. Nearly 100,000 were evacuated from Johor, Malacca, Pahang and Negeri Sembilan that year.

Annual flooding caused by the north-east monsoon costs the Malaysian government RM915 million (S$357 million) in damage each year. That is in addition to the cost of dozens of flood mitigation projects that have been carried out since 2011.

The authorities say they expect heavy rainstorms to last until late March next year.

"During this period, the country will experience four to five episodes of widespread heavy rainfall, and each episode usually lasts for three to seven days," Dr Mohd Hisham Mohd Anip, a meteorological officer at the Malaysian Meteorological Department, told The Straits Times.

"So far, two episodes have occurred, and we expect that there will be two to three more before this monsoon season ends."

Some 20,493 people have been moved from Pahang, with Kuantan, Maran, Rompin, Pekan and Jerantut being the worst-hit areas. In Terengganu, 5,138 people have been evacuated from Kemaman, Dungun and Hulu Terengganu.

The situation in Pahang was made worse by power disruptions due to rising water levels affecting 1,072 electrical substations in several areas and leaving 63,000 people without electricity.

"If the water reaches a dangerous level, TNB will shut down the electric supply to substations, assemblies and wires in the affected area temporarily to ensure the safety of the public," the national power company, Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB), wrote on its Careline Facebook page.

The authorities are now bracing themselves for floods in Kelantan, where 639 people have been moved to higher ground after the Lebir and Kelantan rivers breached their danger levels.

Thirty-eight people in Malacca have also been evacuated.

lestkong@sph.com.sg


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