Flood affected families in Malaysia face a bleak lunar new year

Publicado: 30 enero 2017 12:33 CET

By Ika Koeck, IFRC

Lunar New Year celebrations have been disrupted across Peninsular Malaysia as several waves of flooding triggered by seasonal heavy rains have affected have affected nearly 15,000 people across 6 states.


As of today, nearly 7,800 people remain in evacuation centres. Johor and Pahang States have been particularly hard hit.  


“It has been four days since the floodwaters forced us to evacuate, and I still can’t get to my house,” said 52-year-old Hamilah Binti Isa from the village of Buloh Kasap in Johor state. “I am staying with my sister for now, as her house is built on a hill and safe from the floods, but I am really worried that the situation will get worse if this rain continues.”


In some districts, floodwaters rose up to 1.5 meters, cutting off access to main roads for light vehicles, leaving many communities marooned. While the floods have yet to reach the severity of those that struck the northern state of Kelantan earlier in the month, many villagers remain anxious of what could lie ahead.


“This is the second wave of flooding we have seen in the past few days, and we are expecting a third as water from the State of Pahang flows down to Johor,” explained Nurain binti Adi, a 25-year-old villager taking refuge in one of the 32 active evacuation centres in the district of Segamat. 


At the height of the emergency, as many as 70 evacuation centres were opened in Segamat to accommodate displaced communities. Malaysian Red Crescent Society staff and volunteers have been on the ground since the onset of the flooding to distribute relief goods and to support local authorities in conducting search and rescue activities. However, the operation has faced several challenges. 


“Most of our volunteers in the Johor branch are also victims of the flooding,” said Saiful Munir Bidin, a volunteer at the Malaysian Red Crescent Society. “There are many pools of standing water in parts of Segamat. 13 villages cannot be accessed by road at the moment, and we have to figure out another way to reach them. There is also an urgent need for psychosocial support. Many villagers, especially children, have been traumatised by the disaster.”


On Saturday, 28 January, Her Royal Highness Raja Zarith Sofiah binti Almarhum Sultan Idris Shah, the Queen of Johor, visited three relief centres in Segamat district to help distribute relief goods to  affected communities.


In the coming days, the Malaysian Red Crescent in Johor plans to distribute 3,000 kits containing items to maintain personal hygiene with the support of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Nine boats have been mobilized in Pahang and Johor state to support evacuation and rescue activities.


Meanwhile, in Kelantan Red Crescent volunteers have distributed hygiene kits, blankets, and cash grants to 61 families in the flood-affected areas.