KUALA LUMPUR – Natural disasters, including major floods, that hit several states and claimed almost 50 lives so far, with another five still reported missing, marked the end of 2021 and also exhibited the togetherness of Keluarga Malaysia in times of adversity.
It showed how the rakyat, regardless of race and colour, can be united in the face of common hardships. It witnessed Malaysians from all walks of life coming together to lend a helping hand to the victims.
The 48 deaths in the floods, which was reported as of Dec 27, were the highest in the history of flood disasters in Malaysia. Many said the high number of casualties, with most of them in Selangor, especially in the Klang Valley, was because the flood was unexpected.
The floods occurred following two days of continuous heavy rain, resulting in several areas in Hulu Langat, Kuala Langat, Shah Alam, Klang, Hulu Selangor, Kuala Selangor, Petaling and Kuala Lumpur in the Klang Valley, as well as Bentong, Mentakab and Temerloh in Pahang to be ‘submerged’ under water.
The effect was a total devastation. It was like they were hit by a tsunami. Thousands of people were evacuated to relief centres.
The aftermath of the floods was more heart-wrenching with some victims returning home to see their house “gone”. Dozens of families lost their homes, as well as other belongings, including vehicles, which were either submerged in the floods or swept away by the current.
The end of the year is the northeast monsoon season (from November or December until March), which is the major rainy season in the country that often cause severe floods along the east coast states of Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang and East Johor in Peninsular Malaysia.
Unlike previous years, the rain poured so much in the Klang Valley, which is known for its incidents of flash floods.
Klang Valley was in shock. The people were clearly not prepared to face a natural disaster of this magnitude. In fact, agencies that normally deal with such adversity were lost, not knowing how to react.
The first 48 hours saw the situation as chaotic, the agencies involved were ‘lost’ when appeals for help and assistance in the Klang Valley filled the social media airwaves.
“The situation in Selangor is quite chaotic since the state is normally not affected (by floods) during the monsoon season,” Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob was quoted as saying during a press conference at the National Disaster Operations Control Centre on Dec 18.
Members from the security forces, such as the police and the Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF), as well as the Fire and Rescue Department , – all jumped into action to rescue victims trapped in areas that are badly affected, like Hulu Langat, Taman Sri Muda, Shah Alam and Kuala Langat.
At midnight on Dec 18, the prime minister instructed the Royal Malaysia Police and the MAF to deploy more assets and to focus on rescuing lives and ensuring food supply for victims trapped in the floods.
According to Environment and Water Ministry (KASA) secretary-general Datuk Seri Ir Dr Zaini Ujang, the heavy downpour that lasted over 24 hours since late Dec 17 was equal to the average rainfall for a month, which is a one in 100 year weather event.
The situation saw five million cubic metre of floodwater diverted to Kuala Lumpur through the SMART Tunnel in an effort to lessen the impact of flooding in the downtown area of Kuala Lumpur
He said the SMART diversion was activated up to mode four at 7.45 pm on Dec 18. It was the first time the process was let to run more than three hours since it was first built in 2007.
Selangor was not the only state hit by the floods, but also Pahang, Terengganu, Kelantan, Negeri Sembilan, Melaka, Perak and Kuala Lumpur, affecting 116,273 people from 31,949 families.
Apart from that, landslides were also reported in several areas, among them, in Karak, resulting in scores of road users becoming trapped. They were saved by the search and rescue team.
The floods also turned a resort area in Janda Baik into a disaster area after being hit by a water surge. Two occupants at the resort were found drowned and another is still missing.
Following this shocking disaster, non-governmental organisations and people from all walks of life, irrespective of race and religion from all over the country came forward to offer help by providing basic necessities and joining in the the clean-up efforts.
In an effort to lessen the burden of the flood victims, the government announced an initial allocation of RM100 million to repair homes and damaged infrastructures, as well as RM1,000 in Bantuan Wang Ihsan to every household affected by the floods.
The government also announced interest-free financial aid of up to RM5,000 through Bank Simpanan Nasional (BSN) and allocated RM30 million for Flood Recovery Loan through TEKUN Nasional.
As for cooperatives affected by the floods, they could seek aid of up to RM30,000 through Bantuan Kecemasan Koperasi of the Malaysian Cooperative Commission.