Villagers still struggling after flood subsided

GUA MUSANG - It feels just like yesterday that floods claimed almost everything but the clothes on his back, says villager Mohd Noor Ismail.

His television, fridge, cupboards, mattresses, fans and grass-cutting machine were all damaged in December by floodwaters.

More importantly, the 64-year-old can't get to work as his boat's engine is no longer working and can't be fixed.

He needs about RM1000 (S$373.7) to buy a new engine. That, however, is a large sum of money for Mohd Noor, who earns anything between RM500-1000 a month tapping rubber and kerja kebun (small-scale farming).

"I don't know what to do. We just have to accept what has happened," he says, almost helplessly, when asked if life could get back to normal anytime soon.

Mohd Noor and his wife Rohana Ali, 56, have been cleaning their home located at Kampung Pasir Tumboh in Gua Musang since the floods subsided in January.

No matter how much they clean, mud is visible in and outside their wooden house.

"My feet are very dirty nowadays," he says laughing and showing the base of his feet.

His family have been able to get the lights of their house working but that's about it. They have to sleep on the hard ground.

Mohd Noor, who has 11 children and 12 grandchildren, is not alone.

The whole village looks like it has been ravaged by a hurricane or a tsunami.

There is debris everywhere - old television sets, fridges, mattresses, chairs and washing machines can be seen outside houses.

Some houses have been completely abandoned, a three-inch layer of dried mud on the ground. Some wooden houses are just rubble.

Most people live in their half-cleaned homes while others sleep in makeshift tents.

Water supply to the village has also been disrupted, as the dam where they get their supply overflowed and subsequently broke.

Of the 94 houses there, only 12 were not inundated. Out of the 82 that were submerged, 10 were classified as "total losses".

"The villagers are traumatised by the whole disaster. Everything they built up in their homes over years was lost in a couple of days," says village head Ahmad Seman of Kampung Pasir Tumboh, was around since before the Japanese invaded Malaya.

Fortunately for them, Cakna UT, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) is helping the villagers rebuild their homes.

The flood also took its toll on the roads.

The distance between Pasir Tumboh and Gua Musang town is about 30km but because some roads have been destroyed, the distance is now approximately 110km due to having to take a longer route.

In December, the East coast of Peninsular Malaysia was hit by heavy floods that led to more than 200,000 people being evacuated with billions of ringgit in losses recorded.

The devastation of the floods can be seen along the roads and Sungai Kelantan, where trees have been uprooted.

There is not much difference in Mukim Stong which holds seven villages with an estimated population of 3,000 people.

At Kampung Kemubu, only 34 of the 243 houses there survived, while the rest were submerged with 45 classified as total losses.

Here people live in transit homes while the others are live with relatives, says Stong headman Raduan Jusoh.

"We can't estimate the damage but you can see for yourself how bad it is," he says, adding that 40 cars and more than 100 motorcycles were submerged by floodwaters.

The villagers tend small parcels of land or at the local sawmill. But what used to be a five-minute ride to work now takes 40 minutes, as the bridge across the river is damaged.

This is the same bridge that runs parallel to the train tracks. As a result, the KTM services to Tumpat have been suspended.

"For me it looks as if the flood happened three or four days ago. This is fate and we have to accept it," says Reduan.

There are 13 tents housing families in the village. People cook and shower at the badminton hall next to the tents.

Siti Hawa Hamid, 75, is lying in the hall as she finds the tent to be hot and stuffy in the mid-afternoon.

"I feel very tired," she says, getting up before lying back down again.

Che Aziz Bakar, 50, and his wife Che Sharifah Che Leh, 46, wash a comforter at their house of 15 years in Kampung Kerinting, Gua Musang.

"I haven't finished yet. If I send it to the dhobi, it will just come back with dust on it. Better I just do it myself," says Che Sharifah.

The comforter survived Che Sharifah explains because it was unused and was in its plastic casing.

Almost everything else, however, had to be thrown away after their house and sundry shop next door were submerged by water.

Their car was saved as Che Aziz was undergoing dialysis treatment at the time.

He estimates losses of capital in his sundry shop to be at least RM10,000. He looks lost when asked if they will recover from the flood.

His wife, however, manages a smile and is optimistic that they will recover somehow. "I think it will take us years to get back to normal," she says.