Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Authorities brace for double battle as floods claim lives, displace over 11,000

Thousands have been evacuated with the number rapidly rising, posing another challenge for agencies on top of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Authorities are bracing for worsening floods nationwide with two deaths recorded and an overnight increase in number of evacuees to over 11,000.

Thousands of firefighters in at least three states have been put on standby, joining multiple agencies in evacuation and rescue efforts.

There have also been reports of landslides and a halt in traffic due to rising waters at major interstate roads and highways in the last 24 hours, with the meteorological department issuing warnings of continued downpours throughout the week.

Daily life also came to a standstill in several major towns in Pahang and Johor, with dozens of video clips shared on social media showing motorists struggling to get out of roads inundated with water.

In Pahang, water from the Semantan river in Lancang overflows due to heavy rain, causing the closure of several major roads.

One family of four in Johor spent 11 hours in their vehicle after a part of the Kluang-Mersing road was submerged.

School teacher Abdul Aziz Jemain’s car was stranded alongside about 40 other vehicles, before they were rescued.

Pahang and Johor are currently among the worst-hit states, with Tenaga Nasional announcing the closure of more than 90 power substations for safety reasons as rising waters affect hundreds of homes.

In Taman Maran Jaya in Maran, Pahang, water levels have reached the roofs of many houses. Photo: Bernama

In Pahang, the number of evacuees tripled last night to about 5,400 people, from about 1,800 people at 4pm.

Pahang police chief Abdul Jalil Hassan told MalaysiaNow that Kuantan has recorded the most evacuees so far.

Meanwhile, almost every part of Maran has been submerged, cutting the town off from nearby districts with the Fire and Rescue Department considering the use of helicopters to reach Felda settlements and Orang Asli villages.

In Johor, Kluang where thousands were affected by floods last year saw more than 2,500 people evacuated as of yesterday. Other areas where evacuees have been on the rise are Kota Tinggi, Johor Bahru and Kulai.

In Johor Bahru, residents of Kampung Kangkar Tebrau are evacuated to temporary flood shelters. Photo: Bernama

In Kelantan, bulldozers were used to lift some 100 4WD vehicles participating in an expedition in Hulu Tembeling, Kuala Krai, after they became trapped by mud on their path. Many of the participants were also forced to spend the night in their vehicles.

Floods are an annual affair at this time of the year, but this year will be more challenging for the authorities as multiple agencies are already saddled with battling the Covid-19 pandemic, which has seen almost 2,000 new cases each day.

Many drivers returning to the city after spending the New Year in their home towns were stuck in standstill traffic on the East Coast Expressway on Jan 3 as floods rose as high as 0.68m in some areas.

Authorities are also mindful of the massive floods six years ago which claimed 21 lives and displaced 200,000.

Those floods also ravaged villages and townships in Kelantan, which bore the brunt of the property damage – over RM2 billion – caused by the waters in several states.

The meteorological department has issued a red alert for several areas in Terengganu, Johor and Pahang, with heavy downpour forecast today and tomorrow.

It said the rainy season is expected to last until March.

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