Thousands moved to evacuation centres as floods hit Malaysian East Coast

Published: 5 January 2017 9:04 CET

By Ika Koeck, IFRC

Seasonal heavy rains have once again caused severe flooding in the East Coast of Malaysia, displacing around 25,000 people in the states of Kelantan and Terengganu. Government reports indicate that nearly 14,500 people remain in 51 evacuation centres in Kelantan, while 4,000 people are taking refuge in 60 recovery centres in Terengganu.


While water-levels have begun to recede in most parts of Kelantan, the number of villagers moved to evacuation centres has increased as the floodwaters flow down  river valleys, inundating homes in low-lying areas. The floods have damaged bridges and blocked roads, restricting access to several villages and affecting nine districts in Kelantan. The new school term, which was supposed to begin last week, was postponed as the school compounds were converted into evacuation centres. Pasir Mas and Tumpat are two of the worst-affected districts. Over 10,400 people have been evacuated in Pasir Mas alone, while another 2,100 people were moved out from Tumpat.


Muhamad Kharudi Abdul Rashid, the Operations and Administration Officer for the Malaysian Red Crescent Society in Kelantan, explains that overflowing water from three main rivers in the area have worsened the flood situation.


“The overflowing rivers are flooding homes and forcing many people to move out, and because of this, many of the evacuation centres are at full capacity,” he says. “Some evacuation centres have to accommodate 2,000 people, causing stress to the evacuees and increasing the risk of communicable diseases.”


Since the floods began, Red Crescent volunteers have conducted search and rescue activities and are helping to relocate families to evacuation centres. Over 105 Red Crescent volunteers in Kelantan are currently responding to the emergency, providing hot meals to almost 5,000 people in six evacuation centres and distributing 500 kits of personal hygiene items in the Kuala Krai and Pasir Mas districts. Prepositioned stocks are also being distributed to people affected by the floods.


“Communication lines are not yet stable, so we’ve had to use a two-way portable repeater radio to communicate with other branches,” Kharudi adds. “In some areas, villagers have had to wade through nearly waist-deep water before they were evacuated. Although the flooding isn’t as bad as it was in 2014, we are concerned about the welfare of affected communities.”


Volunteers trained in water rescue operations have been deployed in the worst-affected areas in Kelantan and Terengganu along with the six boats that were provided last year by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).


“The boats are being operated by the villagers themselves,” says Vinod Muniandy, the Project Coordinator for the IFRC Regional Office in Asia Pacific. “The villagers received training from the Malaysian Red Crescent last year to prepare them for emergency situations, and this allows them to act immediately without having to wait for a rescue team to arrive.” 


The Malaysian Red Crescent Society’s National Headquarters has so far distributed 200 hygiene kits to villagers from Kampung Tadok and Kampong Setiu, and bottled water to around 800 people in the evacuation centres. In the state of Terengganu, more than 200 volunteers are on standby to be deployed should the need arise.


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