For decades, Rusnah Mohd Sidek, Mohd Sali Mohd Sidek and Johari Mohd Sidek have lived in a small wooden house inherited from their parents, located on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.
In many ways, their home mirrors the houses found in traditional Malay villages, from the arrangement of the furniture to the kitchen filled with old and well-used utensils.
Rusnah, the oldest, is 70 while Sali is 66 and Johari, 59. They have two other siblings living in Bandar Tun Razak while a sixth has passed away.
They love their home but are well aware of its many shortcomings.
The biggest problem by far happens every time a heavy shower occurs.
The house is located on low land, which means that water flows down from higher ground and collects all around it.
There is a drainage system at the porch area but chronic clogging causes the water to flood into their kitchen and the back portion of the house.
The water damage is never extensive but it is enough to bring trouble for the three siblings.
Of the three, Johari, the youngest, is in arguably the best shape although he suffered a motorcycle accident in 2015. Rusnah has colon cancer and lymphoma while Sali is certified as special needs.
Each time it floods, the three seniors struggle to put their home back in order.
“Our house has been flooded more than 13 times this year,” Rusnah told MalaysiaNow.
“During the fasting month and Hari Raya, it flooded a few times too. Sometimes the water comes in even at dawn.”
This makes life especially difficult for Rusnah, who sleeps in a bed at the back of the house. The location makes it easier for her to navigate her way to the bathroom or to the kitchen to cook, but every time water enters the house, she must relocate.
“I have to go up the stairs to the living room which is higher up,” she said. “It’s very tiring, going upstairs every time it floods.”
Sometimes, she has no strength to make the trip and can only lie in her bed, hoping that the water level will not reach her.
Rusnah, who was once a factory worker, used to go back and forth from the hospital for treatment for her cancer and lymphoma. But her treatment was interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
She and Johari spend their days taking care of Sali who has cerebral palsy and is wheelchair-bound.
Whenever it rains, they do their best to move their furniture and belongings onto tables or chairs to keep them from getting too wet.
“Sometimes I can’t handle everything on my own and I have to call the police to ask them to come and help,” Johari said.
He and his siblings have none of the electrical appliances found in many other homes but they consider this a blessing in disguise.
“Thank goodness we don’t have a fridge or anything like that which could get spoilt every time the water comes in,” he said.
He has contacted the local authorities several times before but there is little he can do except to keep clearing the rubbish from the drain outside his house.
Sooner or later, though, the drain gets clogged up again and the flood waters come rushing in.
He is primarily concerned about their safety as he sometimes sees snakes and centipedes coming into the house when it rains.
The three siblings receive charity aid of RM500 a month. They are also fortunate enough to have neighbours who keep an eye on them.
They once tried to apply for aid from the welfare department as Sali had been certified as a special needs person since 2003, but they never received a response.
They have enough to get by and food enough each day, but every time it rains, the water comes rushing back in and they can only repeat their familiar routine without hope of ever resolving their situation.