Wed, Jan 17, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Floods leave 100,000 Malaysians homeless


Speedboats and helicopters delivered aid to evacuees from floods across southern Malaysia yesterday, with around 100,000 people still seeking refuge at shelters after being forced out of their homes, officials said.

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, meanwhile, was set to visit the flood-stricken state of Johor, officials said.

Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak announced late on Monday that the government would double the amount of compensation given to victims by another 200 ringgit (US$57) while those who have lost household items would be given 500 ringgit to restart their lives once they return home.

Flood operations duty supervisor Lim Kok Khim said 97,083 victims were in relief centers yesterday morning.

"Police, the military and other government agencies are rushing to send as much aid as possible," he told national broadcaster RTM.

Heavy rains that began last week triggered a new wave of flooding after a previous deluge last month -- the worst in a century -- killed at least 17 people and caused damage amounting to 100 million ringgit.

Some areas remain cut off by road, and military personnel have had to deliver aid and rescue victims by helicopter, rubber dinghy or speedboat, images from local media showed. Rescue teams have also been deployed on jet skis.

Much of the hardest-hit area of Kota Tinggi remains submerged in stagnant water standing 3m high in several places, the official at the welfare office said.

"In Kota Tinggi town, its practically an island. It's been cut off from all sides," said Khairy Jamaluddin, the ruling party's deputy youth chief. "What we're worried about is the rate of recovery ... the Kota Tinggi people were really, really caught unaware this time."

Khairy said damage estimates could be worse than the earlier deluge, as the waters had yet to recede.

Around 15,000 people in Kota Tinggi remain in flood relief centers.

"What we're also worried about is not just the physical damage but the emotional aspect too ... Some of these victims have moved in and out of relief centers and they are not sure when they are going to move back," Khairy said.

No casualties have been reported in the latest floods, caused by heavy rains that began last Friday and continued for almost 72 hours.

An official at the state flood welfare office, speaking on condition of anonymity as she was not authorized to speak to the media, said medical personnel were watching for the spread of disease carried by the murky, brown water.

On Jan. 6, two people died in Johor Baru from leptospirosis, a disease borne by water contaminated by the urine of rats.

The fresh floods hit just a few weeks after many victims had returned home for a mammoth cleanup. Some victims were reluctant to evacuate for a second time but police advised residents to adhere to instructions.

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