Malaysia floods: Painfully picking up the pieces

One of the badly hit areas in Kelantan, where rain has abated after heavy flooding in the past fortnight. Tens of thousands of people have been driven to shelters, where they remain amid fears of new floods. Many residents are not taking any chances and are stocking up on food supplies.

KUALA KRAI, Malaysia - The floodwaters may have subsided, but life for villagers in Kampung Tanjung Kala here remains a struggle when all that is left is a trail of destruction.

Zulkifli Hamdan said the floods had either swept away or destroyed 20 homes along with the village mosque.

Those still standing, he said, had no telephone connection, electricity or any other source of power.

"We have resorted to bathing in the river. Getting food and drinking water is a real problem," the 29-year-old general worker told The Star.

However, Zulkifli, who lives with his 62-year-old mother, considers himself lucky that they managed to flee to higher ground when floods struck the village on Christmas Eve.

That same night, a year-old baby boy had been swept away by floodwaters when his mother could not hold on to him, he said, adding that rescuers had yet to find the body.

The village, which is located beside a tributary of Sungai Kelantan, had never been flooded before, said Zulkifli.

"We realised that the level of the water was rising after a week of non-stop rain. However, no one expected the river to burst its banks," he added.

Zulkifli said they did not even have time to take any belongings with them when they escaped.

"I hope that the utilities can be restored to the village so that we can start rebuilding," he said.

Flood victims in the rural parts of Kelantan continue to be in need of essential items, especially food.

In Gua Musang, farmer Razak Ramli, who lives near Jalan Sungai Terah, said his home was destroyed by the flood.

"We have lost almost everything," he said.

Another villager Kamal Latiff, 33, appealed for more food and clean water.

"I barely have enough to feed my family," said the father of three.

Kampung Kerinting villager Rodziah Kamal, 54, said many villagers in the area were lighting fires next to their ruined homes to stay warm through the night and keep mosquitoes away.

"Many are still waiting for assistance," she said.

In Kuala Krai town, MCA branch chairman Leong Hon Lim, 52 said an almost total breakdown of public services has made life more miserable for flood victims.

He said that although flood waters started to recede almost a week ago, the clean-up had not started and they were getting no help from local authorities.

Leong said he feared the mud and rotting debris could pose a health hazard.

Leong, who is helping man MCA's Crisis Response Squad (CRSM) centre from a kindergarten in town, said he was grateful for the supplies flowing from donors. However, he said they still did not have running water.

Ironically, the rain which brought the worse floods ever to the town now seems a godsend for some locals.

Long-time resident Tan Eng Leong, 62, said he was relying on rainwater for drinking and cooking.

But unlike in smaller towns ravaged by flood waters, electricity supply has been restored in Kuala Krai town.

Non-Governmental Organisation Operational Centre of Flood Relief Assistance chairman Prof Dr Din Suhaimi Sidek said there was a shortage of supplies in many areas, including Dabong, Kok Pasir and Alor Pasir.

A coalition of over 20 non-governmental bodies, it aims to provide supplies and medical assistance to areas without centralised flood relief centres.

"Victims at these isolated areas have trouble receiving supplies. When we are there, they won't wait for us to distribute the food.

"They will just make a grab at it," he said.

To make matters worse, Dr Din Suhaimi said their supply of dry food ran out three days ago.

"Right now, even the doctors are hungry," he said.

A CRSM team, led by former Kajang assemblyman Datin Paduka Low Lee Leng, also brought supplies to Kuala Krai in the early hours of the new year.