BUKIT MERTAJAM: The Malaysian government has approved the allocation of RM150 million (US$35 million) for flood mitigation projects in Penang, Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Tuesday (Nov 7).
Thirteen projects will be implemented in stages over at least two years.
Mr Najib arrived in Penang on Tuesday to inspect areas, and meet with evacuees affected by floods that hit the state over the weekend.
Accompanied by his wife Rosmah Mansor and Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai, he was met by Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng at an air force base in Butterworth.
The prime minister was given a briefing on the floods as well as updates on the current situation in Penang by state secretary Farizan Darus.
Mr Najib was also briefed by Penang Drainage and Irrigation Department director Sabri Abdul Mulukon on the causes of the floods and the short-term remedies undertaken by the state.
Later in the day, Mr Najib met with affected residents during a visit to an evacuation centre in Tasek Gelugor and handed out a local snack called apong.
The government will not neglect Penang and will help victims recover their losses, Mr Najib said.
"We will look at our financial situation and will help the state government to implement these projects."
He said that it had been difficult to issue an early flood warning due to changing weather patterns.
"The weather is very unusual and unpredictable - first there was one-and-a-half months of rain in just one day that fell in Penang, then there was water coming from neighbouring Kedah state," he said.
The surge in rainfall also coincided with high tide in Penang, so the water was unable to flow into the sea, he added.
He also urged the public as well as state developers to be mindful about the environment and not to throw garbage into the river or clog up drains which could make the situation worse.
Penang was the worst-hit state as torrential rains brought floods to northern Malaysia on Nov 5, with Kedah, Kelantan and Perlis also affected.
At least seven people died during the Penang floods, which also caused destruction to roads and property.
Padi fields in Seberang Perai across from the island of Penang have turned into huge bodies of water stretching to the horizon, after a nearby river Sungai Muda burst its banks, flooding thousands of acres of land and inundating thousands of homes.
More than 3,000 people have had to take shelter in about 40 centres across the state, 80 per cent of which was submerged in muddy floodwater as of Saturday.
Many are staying in schools and community halls that have been turned into temporary evacuation centres.
Housewives Rubiah and Nurimah told Channel NewsAsia that they had been staying at a school on the Malay Peninsula opposite Penang Island, north of Seberang Perai, for four days.
Their children fell ill after the families had to wait soaked in waist-deep waters for a whole night for help to arrive.
"We waited and waited for help to arrive," said mother-of-five Rubiah Hashim. "I told myself to be patient. I guess the rescue team was shorthanded but we waited the whole night in cold flood water."
They, along with many others, could not move to higher ground in time as flood waters rose too quickly.