Malaysia flood victims seek to set up homes again among muddied mounds of debris

A volunteer of handing out supplies to flood-affected residents in the district of Kuala Krai in Kelantan.

Piles of clothes delivered to the flood victims in Bukit Sirih, Kuala Krai, were just left on the road in three separate mounds.

Most of them were covered in dirt and mud, but the children were lying on these piles of clothes as their brick homes were empty of furniture and filled with dirt, trash and mud.

Every time a truck or a lorry carrying supplies stopped, everyone - children, adults and the elderly - would run out to get the items.

Mud stains left behind by the floodwaters could be seen almost up to the roof.

We saw a child, around the age of five, running from the lorry with a handful of biscuits and snacks.

Despite her family losing all its belongings, she stopped and handed us a packet of crackers with a smile.

Clothes and raw food were appreciated, but were not useful at this point of time as there was no water or electricity supply yet.

Most victims said they were looking out for kitchen appliances and school supplies.

Many said they had anticipated the floods as it happened all the time, but did not expect it to be this bad.

We saw piles of damaged furniture, clothes, books and home appliances along the roads.

People were seen trying to salvage whatever they could reuse and cleaning their homes.

Not far from the hotel, we were hit by a pungent smell from all the dried mud and trash washed out from the homes of the people there.

We noticed that homes along the road between Kota Baru and Gua Musang were built lower than the level of the road and almost all of them were affected by the flood.

When asked why houses were built at that level despite the annual occurrence of flood, one of the residents said, "This is our home and there is nowhere else to go. The river that kills us also feeds us, so we do not have a choice."

In Manek Urai - "ground zero" for floods in Kuala Krai - the mud was ankle-deep and it was a struggle for us to walk almost 2.5km to a village.

There, homes had been flattened by the strong currents of a nearby river.

Residents told us the river was overflowing at the height of the floods.

One man just sat there on the ruins of his home while another amidst the rubble.

"We have enough food since many have been generous. We were without food for only two days when the water levels were extremely high, but now we are okay," said one of them as he offered us drinks and food that was given to him.

In another part of Kuala Krai, flood victims were seen using whatever that had not been washed away in the floods as shelter while waiting for their homes to be rebuilt.

Tying pieces of canvas together or even using a lorry abandoned by the roadside, they huddled together to keep warm and away from the rainwater that came through openings.

If they are lucky, they will have warm, cooked food supplied by the many volunteers. If they are not, then it is canned sardines, cup noodles, biscuits and whatever water they can collect from the well that is not contaminated.

Even the drizzle was enough to cause alarm for Wan Roslan Wan Hussein, 53.

The security guard is living in a tent, with 13 children and 17 grandchildren.

"When the first wave came, it didn't have much of an impact. When the second wave came, we lost all our belongings. Should the third wave come, we have nothing much left to lose," he said.

Flood victims getting psychological help, too

The psychosocial support provided by psychiatric and medical experts from the National Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre has helped alleviate trauma among the flood victims.

Health Ministry director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the disaster had brought emotional distress and psychological trauma to the victims and those involved in relief efforts such as medical personnel and relief volunteers.

He said since Dec 21, 29 teams of 150 personnel had been providing psychological first aid, supportive counselling, individual and group therapies and ceramah to help victims identify and handle stress.

"They organised group activities for children and teenagers such as drawing, colouring and playing with wooden blocks.

"The teams carried out relaxation sessions with the victims to alleviate the stress of those living in the relief centres," he said, adding that mental health screenings are also being carried out to identify the stress levels of victims and relief personnel before they are referred to counsellors and psychiatric experts.

As of Jan 1, 660 flood victims, 119 health officers and volunteers had benefitted from the service provided by the centre, while 267 individual counselling and 333 group counselling sessions had been carried out.

In another development, 42 teams of health officers from outside Kelantan have been dispatched to help contain and prevent the spread of infectious diseases and epidemics.

The ministry said in a statement that it encouraged the use of hand sanitisers for the purpose of self-hygiene especially in areas lacking clean water.

"The ministry will be supplying hand sanitisers at relief centres.

"We appeal to companies and individuals to donate hand sanitisers as it will keep victims safe from bacterial illnesses," it said.

The ministry also urged volunteers to wear appropriate safety gear while carrying out clean-up duties in health facilities.

Volunteers should wear face masks, boots, gloves, long-sleeve shirts and long pants, while those with skin problems or wounds should not be involved in the clean-up.

Purchase this article for republication.

SERVICES