Flood victims find only misery at overcrowded evacuation centres

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 January, 2007, 12:00am

Anger is rising among 110,000 flood victims holed-up in crowded and ill-equipped evacuation centres in southern Johor state, as overwhelmed officials and aid workers struggle with the region's worst flood disaster in living memory.

Evacuees vie for limited cooked food, drinking water and bedding, while two reportedly died from diseases linked to poor hygiene.

Last week, the government announced M$200 (HK$465) cash per victim, soft loans for businesses, and the waiving of various fees, but the distribution of the aid has been criticised as lopsided.

'Nobody expected a disaster of this scale ... nobody is trained for this kind of situation,' a Malaysian Red Crescent Society volunteer said.

'I have not received food, sleeping materials or the M$200 the government has promised,' said hawker Majid Jantan, 58, whose house was damaged and belongings swept away by the first wave of floods that hit just after Christmas.

'I returned on Friday to survey the loss, when the water started to rise again,' he said at an evacuation centre, one of 360 in the state. Yosop Masur, 66, said: 'We did not even get biscuits, let alone money.'

About 600mm of rain has fallen over Johor in recent weeks.

It is impossible to drive further south than Yong Peng because major rivers have burst their banks, cutting off roads and washing away bridges.

The deaths of 23 people have been blamed on the flooding. Several towns are submerged in chest-deep water and the worst hit - Koto Tinggi town in the far south - is completely submerged.

On the weekend, the government appealed for volunteers, especially for doctors, nurses and helpers at the evacuation centres.

They also appealed for dry food, used clothes and cooking utensils - materials easily available in nearby towns unaffected by the flood.


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