|Kota Tinggi, Malaysia: Malaysia’s worst floods in 37 years have displaced nearly 100,000 people amid food shortages, looting and criticism yesterday of the government’s handling of the crisis.Heavy rain in neighbouring Indonesia exacerbated by deforestation also killed at least six people and drove tens of thousands from their homes.
Malaysian weathermen warned the floods, which hit the southern states, could spread to the central and northeastern parts of the country if the unusually heavy monsoon rains persisted. The rains over the Malaysian states of Johor, Negeri Sembilan, Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang are expected to continue today, the weather bureau said in a report.
Six people, all in the worst-hit state of Johor, have now died in the floods, which the government described as the worst since 1969.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, en route to Australia for his holiday after an official visit to Venezuela, made a surprise detour to Johor yesterday to visit flood victims. “We want to ensure that everyone gets to return home safely,” the national Bernama news agency quoted him as saying after visiting a shelter in Johor.
The floods, which followed this week’s heaviest rainfall in a century, submerged buildings and cut off roads in Kota Tinggi and several other towns in Johor, which borders Singapore.
Newspapers reported looting in the towns of Kota Tinggi and Segamat. There were also cases of rescuers demanding money from flood victims before rescuing them, the Star newspaper said.
“I was desperate and did not know what to do,” the Star quoted Abdul Rashid Maidin, one of several people whom it said paid the money, as saying.
The going rate was between 50 and 100 ringgit (Dh52 and Dh104), it said.
Flood victims also complained of lack of food, clothing, blankets and running water at many of the relief shelters. Opposition leaders criticised the government’s handling of the crisis, saying relief operations were in complete disarray. “A full and independent inquiry into the monster floods in southern peninsula Malaysia and the horror stories of inhumanity, greed and incompetence is clearly warranted,” parliamentary Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang said.
In Indonesia, authorities said at least five people were killed and 70,000 others driven from their homes by surging flash floods.
Heavy torrential rains and overflowing rivers killing two people and made more than 60,000 homeless. The two deaths were the first since Sunday, when torrential downpours caused rivers and dams to overflow in the states of Johor, Malacca, Pahang and Negeri Sembilan. The floods have destroyed crops and cut off roads, power lines and rail services.
The two men were found dead Thursday by an army rescue team in Johor. The Drainage and Irrigation Department has described the flooding as the worst in Johor in a century.
Johor opened nearly 300 flood relief centers on high ground to house 53,000 residents evacuated from their homes across all eight districts, Che Moin said. In the other three states, more than 7,500 people were forced to leave their homes.
The national railway, KTM Berhad, has suspended all services to the southern state until further notice, railway . Johor’s farmers estimated losses of crops, fertilizer and machinery worth millions of ringgit, which could cause a spike in vegetable prices, according to the Malaysian Vegetable Farmers Association. The local farms supply Johor’s markets and export to neighboring Singapore.
The meteorological department said the rainy weather is expected to continue in southern Malaysia through the end of the week.