KUALA KRAI, Jan 11 –If one didn’t know any better, one would think Kuala Krai in Kelantan was holding a carnival of some sort. The town was bustling with thousands of visitors who had either read about the east coast flooding or were moved by the sufferings faced by tens of thousands of families here.
One village in particular, Kg Manek Urai Lama, that was completely submerged for almost a week, in one of the worst flooding disasters in the country, was filled with trucks, buses and cars arriving in droves in the past few days. Most of them were volunteers from agencies and non-governmental organisations who were visiting the village for aid distribution and clean-up efforts after the floods destroyed properties, swept away homes and left a trail of thick mud everywhere.
Despite the devastation, hundreds of villagers were out and about socialising, sharing their tales and helping the volunteers with clean-up while opening their arms wide to receive packages and donations. The village experienced heavy traffic for the very first time as big vehicles moved in and out of their narrow streets carrying young volunteers.
It easily took close to an hour for vehicles to move in as the villagers stood dressed in the finest apparels that were available while showing their excitement in welcoming such a crowd for the first time. “We’ve never experienced such traffic in this place. It’s quite an experience. The army officers had to facilitate traffic flow — making a one-way street into a two-way street,” 65-year-old Nordin Ali told The Rakyat Post.
“I want my home back”
Abdullah Johari, 33, saw whatever little belongings he had, including his wooden house, being swept away by strong currents that took the village by surprise. Days of torrential rain, coupled with the new moon phenomenon, caused rivers and damns to overflow, displacing over 100,000 residents in Kelantan alone.
Abdullah said that his wife, two children and his aged mother-in-law were now forced to stay in a small tattering blue tent that had replaced the house that had been their home for years. He said although they had been hit by floods a couple of times before — in 1988 and 2004 — nothing prepared them for the severity of the recent one.
At the empty, muddy ground where his house once stood, there was a hand-written notice that read: “Nama: Abdullah Johari; Bil Penghuni: 4; Keperluan; Bina Rumah Semula” indicating his desire to have nothing but his home back again. “I am poor. I really didn’t have that many properties. I don’t even know the monetary value of what I’ve lost, but the house that I had meant everything to me and my family,” says Abdullah.
Rebuilding their lives from scratch
Most of the villagers in Kg Manek Urai Lama and Kg Manek Urai Baru had nothing much to hold on to apart from some clothing, food donated by passers-by and hope that kept them smiling in the face of tragedy. Sharon Ab Rahman, 62, said that he was told a transit house would be built for them by the government while efforts to build new houses under the PRIMA housing schemed were underway.
Although the information was hearsay, Sharon clung to it as it was probably one of the best news he had heard since everything was taken away from him in the blink of an eye. Just like Abdullah, his house was also swept away by strong currents, leaving him, his wife and two teenage children to seek shelter under a plastic cover.
“We are now homeless and there is nowhere for us to go as our family members live far away, but that shouldn’t be a problem because we would be moving to a transit house soon,” says Sharon with a lot of conviction.