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Two months later, Bentong flood victims still wait without a home

They are losing hope that the government will step in to provide much-needed help.

Ahmad Mustakim Zulkifli
3 minute read
M Dewi stands outside her store in Telemong, Bentong, which was badly damaged in the flood that hit the area in December last year.
M Dewi stands outside her store in Telemong, Bentong, which was badly damaged in the flood that hit the area in December last year.

The clock on the wall showed 8pm as M Dewi was tidying up her small store at the side of the road in Telemong, Bentong in Pahang.

For 20 years, the store had doubled as a home for her and her family. This made it easier for Dewi, who was now 65, to begin preparing food to sell immediately after waking up in the morning.

Moving about the small, familiar space, she glanced out the window every now and then. It had been raining without end for nearly the whole day, but she expected it to eventually potter to a stop.

What she could not see was the slow rise of water along the road outside.

Only when it reached her store did Dewi realise that something was amiss.

One of Dewi’s grandchildren plays under a damaged section of the roof which collapsed during the flood.

Once inside the store, the water continued to rise. When it reached calf-level, Dewi decided it was time to move. She went to her son’s house which was located on slightly higher ground than the store.

“I called to my grandchild to save the ducks and the chickens in the coop, and then I went,” she told MalaysiaNow.

But as the night grew deeper, the water continued to rise. Soon, it had made its way even to her son’s house.

Dewi watched as little by little, her store was swallowed up.

“My family and I rushed to find shelter,” she recalled. “We took the path to the oil palm plantation behind the house.”

With only the light from their phones to guide them, the way was slow and trecherous.

Eventually, they made their way to a nearby hall where they waited for the water to subside.

The chicken coop remains in shambles, two months after the flood.

When they returned to the house, though, they discovered that Dewi’s store and home had been badly damaged.

The roof had collapsed, and personal belongings were scattered while the entire area had turned brown with mud.

Two months later, not much has changed.

Others meanwhile have suffered even bigger losses. Dewi’s neighbour, V Thilagavathy, used to live just a few hundred metres away. But the flood that hit that night swept her entire house away, leaving only the foundation intact.

“After the water subsided, I went back to see my house,” Thilagavathy said. “At the time, there were still some things there like the fridge and the television. But the next day, the scrap collectors came and took them all away.”

V Thilagavathy stands on the cement foundations of her house – all that remains of her home which was swept away by the raging flood.

Like thousands of other flood victims, Thilagavathy pinned her hopes on the aid promised by the government – but her hopes were in vain.

“I applied for an interest-free loan of RM10,000 but my application was rejected because I am unemployed,” she said.

“A government officer told us to find a new plot of land so that our house could be rebuilt. But where are we supposed to find this land?”

Thilagavathy’s home had stood on river reserve land. She and her husband, who worked as a lorry driver, had also planted a few durian and oil palm trees in order to bring in a little extra money.

In his New Year address, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob had announced several flood aid initiatives including cash assistance of RM1,000, vouchers for electrical appliances worth RM500, and cash of RM5,000 for repair works.

Thilagavathy gestures at the fallen trees scattered around what used to be her house.

He said homes that had suffered serious damage would be repaired by the government at a maximum cost of RM15,000 while in cases where houses had been completely destroyed, the government would provide up to RM56,000 for a new unit.

Dewi and her family received RM1,000 from Sabai assemblyman Kamache Doray Rajoo.

While the money has helped them cover their immediate needs, the more pressing matter for Dewi is her store and home.

“Before this, they said they would help repair things but until now, nothing has happened,” she said.

She and Thilagavathy are still waiting, but hope is wearing thin.

For now, they are staying with their children but this is not a long-term solution to their troubles.

All they want is for their homes to be rebuilt so that they can continue making a living without having to further depend on anyone else.