KUALA LUMPUR: Johor became the latest Malaysian state to be hit by floods, with the number of evacuees rising steadily on Saturday (Jan 1).
More than 1,000 people have been evacuated as of 4pm. Nearly 20 relief centres have been set up in two districts - Segamat and Tangkat - after a continuous downpour since Friday night.
Besides Johor, the number of residents evacuating from floods in Pahang, Melaka and Negeri Sembilan also continued to rise on Saturday as the four states brace for more heavy rain.
An orange alert has been issued by the Malaysian Meteorological Department, forecasting rain in those states until Monday.
Three rivers in Johor – Sungai Segamat, Sungai Muar and Sungai Tangkak – have already exceeded dangerous levels, according to State Health and Environment Committee chairman R Vidyananthan.
The waters in another three rivers in Pahang and two in Negeri Sembilan have also risen to dangerous levels, according to the Drainage and Irrigation Department’s InfoBanjir portal.
Floods in Malaysia have displaced tens of thousands of people since Dec 17 after unusually heavy rainfall caused flooding in several states.
GOVERNMENT SEEKING LONG-TERM SOLUTIONS
Amid criticism of the government's slow response to the floods last month, Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said on Saturday that authorities are focusing on seeking comprehensive long-term solutions to the flood problem.
This will be the main agenda of the National Disaster Management Committee once the post-flood operations are completed, he said. The work is expected to involve state governments, government ministries and agencies, as well as experts in related fields.
“We will seek out and discuss whatever modules that are suitable to resolve this problem, and if it cannot be implemented simultaneously throughout the country, focus will be given to districts or areas at high risk of flooding,” said Mr Ismail Sabri after presenting aid under a flood relief programme in Pahang.
“A long-term plan involves huge costs but it helps to reduce the costs incurred by the government each time it floods. So far, we have spent RM1.4 billion (US$335 million) on aid alone and this amount is expected to increase because we have not yet received the full report on damage,” he said.
Mr Ismail Sabri said the plan for long-term solutions was discussed during the time of the Barisan Nasional government, but it was not continued.
Potential measures include more flood mitigation projects, deepening rivers and other waterways such as in Kedah and building projects like Kuala Lumpur's SMART Tunnel for flood management in high-risk urban areas such as Shah Alam in Selangor, he said.
“For low-lying areas that are prone to flooding, we can revisit the flood resettlement programme implemented in the 1970s. This calls for discussions with state governments to identify suitable high grounds and the federal government can help in terms of allocations,” said Mr Ismail Sabri.
The prime minister said solutions adopted by other countries could also be considered if suitable for Malaysia, including the “sponge city” concept used in China to help slow the flow of floodwaters or the river dikes of the Netherlands.