Chasing the floods in Malaysia
As I pondered whether to cover the floods that hit southern Malaysia, the first question that came to my mind was “will the floods still be there?”
Nonetheless, I decided to take the risk by driving more than 4 hours to get to the area. I was proven wrong. A villager said âYou should have come yesterday.â
I grew up in the northeastern part of Malaysia where floods are a common phenomenon. When I was a young child, I enjoyed playing in the floods. Now, faced with the prospect of going home empty handed, I chose to stay put and do my best. Luck was on my side. A speeding ambulance whizzed by and I decided to chase the vehicle.
The ambulance took me to the village of Kundang Ulu. The ambulance managed to get through the floods but I was stranded on the edge of the water. But “mission accomplished”, I could see water. I started to make friends with some teenagers hoping they could bring me around to see the hardest-hit areas. They informed me that there was an area about 5 km (3 miles) away where the water was up to the roof. I asked them to bring me as close as possible with their bikes and of course they were very proud to show off their village – it was a sort of water festival in a way.
The kids dropped me off at high ground on the other side of the floodwater but the water on that side was too high to go further by motorcycle. Villagers helped me to locate Pakcik Kassim, or Uncle Kassim, who has a boat and he welcomed me to his submerged village.
Pakcik Kassim showed me his neighbor’s house where the water was almost touching the ceiling fan. Uncle Kassim also showed me his neighborhood coffee shop where only the tip of its roof could be seen. We helped a couple with their seven-year-old son evacuate their home. We came back to the ground overloaded with belongings of the family but we were glad to be able to help.
The next day was a little different. I wanted to go the village of Panchor but the road was cut off. I asked a boatman if he could bring me across but he said there was nobody on the other side who could transport me. He said I could go to the other side by road where I could reach Panchor and there were still people there. I asked him how far it was and he replied that is was 70 km away. I asked how far away we were now, “2 kms” came the reply…
I took the long drive. The village of Panchor had become like an island where all the roads were cut off. There were villagers who lived in tents to make sure their neighborhood was not looted. They asked if I had food for them. I didn’t. The water level was not incredibly high but some villagers were still evacuating.
The third day was a ‘wading’ day. The walk was 5 km (3 miles) and three quarters of it was wading through the floods. It took me three hours to reach the village of Sri Tanjong. This time I carried some food for the guarding villagers. They also cooked a simple meal for me. Surprisingly the meal was excellent, maybe due to a different ‘wet’ atmosphere, and with that meal I survived another 5 km of walking and wading to get back.
I have covered many floods but each time it is a unique experience.