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Thousands evacuated amid severe floods in Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR — Heavy rains over the past few days in the Malaysian east coast states of Terengganu and Kelantan as well as Johor caused massive floods, sending thousands of people to evacuation centres, forcing schools to close and destroying crops.

Thousands evacuated amid severe floods in Malaysia

People wade through a flooded street in Malaysia's northeastern town of Rantau Panjang, which borders Thailand, on Jan 3, 2017. Photo: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR — Heavy rains over the past few days in the Malaysian east coast states of Terengganu and Kelantan as well as Johor caused massive floods, sending thousands of people to evacuation centres, forcing schools to close and destroying crops.

This comes as the Malaysian Meteorological Department warned that rains and thunderstorms are expected to persist in Terengganu and Kelantan until Wednesday (Jan 4), with winds up to 50kmph, causing rough seas with 3.5m waves that could endanger small vessels.

In Terengganu, more than 3,500 people were evacuated by the authorities to 63 relief centres when overflowing rivers burst their banks due to the continuous rains. The state irrigation department said the water levels of seven rivers in Terengganu breached the danger point as of 2.30pm on Tuesday, while state education department director Shafruddin Ali Hussin said 24 schools in four districts remained closed due to the floods.

The floods also destroyed honey lemon crops in Kampung Lubok Periuk in the district of Kuala Berang, with farmers estimating that their losses amounted to more than RM20,000 (S$6,500).

“Our lemon fruits have been destroyed ... most of the fruits were nearly ripe and had dropped to the ground, and turned bad as the river water had spilled over into the farm,” national news agency Bernama quoted farmer Yahaya Abdullah as 
saying. However, farmer Mr Abas Abdul Rahman shrugged off the losses, saying that this was not the first time their farms were flooded. The same problem took place two years ago at about the same time, he said.

“At that time there was a bountiful crop ... we suffered considerable losses because our trees produced about 50kg each ... life will be a bit difficult after this, but it’s alright, there will be other forms of sustenance from Allah,” he told Bernama.

In neighbouring Kelantan, over 5,200 people were placed in 55 relief centres, with Kelantan Civil Defence Force director Zainuddin Hussin saying the floods were caused by water from swollen rivers that was flowing downstream.

“We anticipate the evacuation of more people because the rain continues to fall, sometimes heavily. We may have to open more relief centres, especially in (the districts of) Pasir Mas and Tumpat,” Bernama quoted him as saying.

The flood also caused more than 9,000 children in the state to miss school, as some 29 primary and secondary schools were forced to close due to the rising waters. The state education department said in a statement that the roads to the schools were flooded, and it was dangerous for anyone to go to the schools. With the rains showing no sign of letting up, the welfare department assured residents that there would be enough supplies of canned and dried food items for affected victims even if the floods go on for weeks.

“We have sufficient food supply. Even if the floods last for a month, all evacuation centres will have sufficient food supply,” said the department’s director-general, Zulkiply Rahim.

Rains also caused flash floods in Johor Baru on Monday, prompting Johor Chief Minister Mohamed Khaled Nordin to direct the city’s district office on Tuesday to set up a special taskforce to identify flood-prone areas in the state and propose solutions to the problem. “I am sure that the factors contributing to the flood differ from area to area, thus an in-depth survey and study should be carried out,” The Star Online quoted him as saying. AGENCIES

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