KOTA BHARU, Kelantan: Worsening floods in Kelantan and Kuala Terengganu have claimed its first victim - a seven-year-old boy - as the number of evacuees increased drastically overnight.
The body of Mohammad Ilham Hasmadi was found in a flooded padi field in Kelantan's Pasir Puteh on Monday (Dec 2).
He had reportedly followed his uncle to an irrigation canal in Felcra Teratak Batu on Sunday evening to fish, when he slipped from a plank bridge and fell into the swollen canal.
Kelantan police chief Hasanuddin Hassan said members of the search and rescue team found Mohammad Ilham’s body on Monday morning, about 400m from where he was believed to have slipped into the canal.
RED ALERT WEATHER WARNINGS
Red alert weather warnings were issued on Sunday for seven districts in Kelantan, including its capital Kota Bharu, as well as two districts in Terengganu, by the Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia).
A red alert is issued when rainfall is forecast to exceed of 240mm of per day.
As at 7am on Monday, the number of flood victims in Kelantan rose to 5,636, more than doubling from Sunday night.
In Terengganu, as at 4pm on Monday, the number of people seeking shelter at flood relief centres increased from 2,387 people (650 families) on Sunday night, to 5,935 people (1,796 families).
A total of 60 relief centres in Terengganu were opened on Monday to accommodate the new evacuees, bringing to 126 the number of flood evacuation centres opened since floods hit the state.
FORCED TO SEEK SHELTER IN CARS AND BUDGET HOTELS
Victims whose homes were flooded in Terengganu following heavy rain on Saturday night were forced to seek shelter in cars and budget hotels while awaiting evacuation to relief centres on Sunday.
“When the floodwaters entered the house, I made the decision to take the kids out of the house and stay at the budget hotel temporarily because I didn’t know where was the nearest relief centre and we just moved to one this morning," said Normadiah Mat Jusoh, 45, who brought her seven children, aged between five and 21, to stay at a nearby budget hotel after the floodwaters entered their house.
“Not only me, many of my neighbours also stayed at budget hotels and some stayed in their cars before going to the relief centre this morning.”
According to Terengganu Malaysian Civil Defence Force director Lieutenant Colonel Che Adam A Rahman, the district of Besut is the worst affected, with 1,927 evacuees (520 families) at 45 relief centres.
In Hulu Terengganu alone, 18 new centres were opened on Monday to accommodate 1,751 evacuees, said Mr Che Adam. This brings the total number of flood relief centres in the Hulu Terengganu district to 33.
“The number of flood victims in Setiu rose to 1,795 people (545 families) at 31 relief centres compared to 1,691 people (523 families) at 28 centres this morning," he said.
Several villagers in Kampung Nyatoh, Setiu, told Bernama that they had spent tens of thousands of ringgit in a bid to beat the frequent flooding by raising their houses up to two metres high, but to no avail.
“I thought after spending RM30,000 to lift the house, I don’t have to move anymore, but the floodwaters still entered the house and I still need to move to the relief centre," said Mariam Sulong, 63.
“After the severe floods in 2013, I have to get ready and place my belongings at higher and safer places."
STRANDED MALAYSIAN TOURISTS
About 30 Malaysian tourists were stranded in Kampung Pasir Dula, Kuala Berang, as severe floods up to a metre high in several areas in the Hulu Terengganu district cut off access to the main road.
The group, comprising five families, took refuge at a mosque in the area.
Shaarani Ismail, 40, who was on holiday with his wife and four children, said the family had long been looking forward to the trip to the East Coast.
"I worked in Terengganu 10 years ago before moving to Perak. So, with the holiday, I also thought it would be a good opportunity to visit the former caregivers of our children,” he told Bernama on Sunday.
Shaarani said he was relieved when the Village Community Management Council (MPKK) helped the family seek shelter at one of the villager's homes.
Kampung Pasir Dula MPKK chairman Mohd Azmi Ton Busu, 48, said all the tourists, who were from Perak and Penang, had been placed in villagers' homes while waiting for the floods to recede.
“Hopefully they can continue their journey to Kuala Terengganu tomorrow,” he said.
According to the Drainage and Irrigation Department’s website, five rivers in three districts in recorded readings above the danger level at 7am on Monday.
In Pahang, the flood situation remains the same with three people still at a relief centre in Rompin.