- Advertisement -

No oranges or lion dances this New Year, only mud and dirty water

The recent floods mean a very different Chinese New Year this year for a small village in Telemong, Karak.

Ahmad Mustakim Zulkifli
3 minute read
Ho Kai Yip surveys the living room of his house which, despite days of hard work, still bears unmistakeable signs of the recent floods.
Ho Kai Yip surveys the living room of his house which, despite days of hard work, still bears unmistakeable signs of the recent floods.

At Telemong in Karak, Pahang, the skies are blue and filled with fluffy white clouds through which beams of sunlight frequently fall.

On the ground, though, Ho Kai Yip is struggling to deal with the biggest disaster to have struck in all his 56 years.

The massive floods which swept across his village last month carried away everything in his house. Now, nothing remains of his family’s personal belongings although the strong currents which washed them away left behind other items and garbage including mattresses from unknown homes.

Standing in front of his house, Ho recalls how Chinese New Year reunion dinners would always be hosted there.

“Before the movement control orders, our children would come back from Singapore and celebrate with us,” he told MalaysiaNow.

Furniture lies covered in mud and in disarray in Ho’s house, where his family has lived for more than 50 years.

Celebrations in the village would be noisy and exuberant, complete with the clanging of cymbals, lion dances, ang pows and Mandarin oranges.

This year, though, their house is filled only with mud and sludge.

Where they would normally be hard at work spring cleaning and putting up decorations, they are now shovelling out mud and draining away stagnant water.

“Right now, we are only thinking about our house,” he said. “We don’t even know where we will live.”

The face mask he wears in accordance with health measures hides most of his emotions but his voice betrays his sadness.

Ho walks through his house, which he and his sons are working hard to restore after the floods that destroyed many of their belongings.

Ho and his wife have worked as rubber tappers since their youth, but these days they have no time to spare for their plantation as they are too busy trying to repair their house.

In any case, the path leading to the plantation is still blocked by stagnant water left by the flood.

After the flood, Ho sent his wife and youngest child to stay with a relative in Kuala Lumpur. But his two older sons were forced to return to the village after losing their jobs due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

At the very least, the family house, a modest one-storey building, is still standing. Surrounded by green hills and lush palm oil plantations, the village during normal times would be calm and peaceful.

Ho looks at what used to be a pathway leading to his rubber plantation.

Now, though, the road leading to the settlement is filled with mud and logs washed down by the flood.

Most of the 12 other homes in the area have also sustained heavy damage. Two were completely swept away.

Ho is a little more fortunate than some of the others as volunteers helped clean away the foot of sludge which had collected in his house.

But he and his sons still have their work cut out for them, getting rid of the rest of the mud and scrubbing down the house.

Dressed in T-shirts, shorts and boots, they use wheelbarrows and spades to continue cleaning their house.

Ho’s sons help clean out the mud that was left behind in their house after the floodwater subsided.

When MalaysiaNow visited, one room was still filled with mud.

Ho said he had received aid of RM1,500. “I heard about assistance of more than RM10,000 but I don’t know how to apply for it,” he said.

“I asked the village leader but he doesn’t know either.”

Alone with his sons, he continues to work. Every once in a while, the silence is broken by the sound of motorcycles and lorries entering the village.

Water pours unceasingly from the main pipe outside his house which was damaged during the flood.

Even if they manage to finish cleaning their house before Chinese New Year, the smell of mud and stagnant water will continue to haunt them.

Good luck and prosperity seem miles away this year, but they cling to what they do have: their determination to keep going for the sake of their family.