At least four people have died in Malaysia and nearly 41,000 have been evacuated after floods caused by “unusual” torrential rain swept through several states for several days, officials said on Saturday.
Local reports and social media posts showed images of flooded roads, submerged cars, flooded houses and closed rows of shops in the affected areas, mainly in the southern state of Johor near neighboring Singapore.
The rains have continued unabated, hampering relief efforts.
Police said at least four people have died since Wednesday, including a man whose car was swept away by the floodwaters and an elderly couple who drowned.
Nearly 41,000 people from six states — but mostly from Johor — have been evacuated to schools and community centers where food, water and clothing have been provided.
The latest fatality was a 68-year-old woman who drowned near her flooded home after exiting an evacuation center in the Johor town of Segamat, police said.
In the Johor town of Yong Peng, AFP journalists saw a family wading in brownish, knee-deep water in front of their home, their children using inner tubes for flotation.
Safiee Hassan, 38, said he and his family managed to salvage their fridge, sofa and some electrical appliances.
“Other things like our bed, our mattress, our closet are damaged,” he told AFP.
Malaysian Natural Society President Vincent Chow told AFP these were “the worst floods to hit Johor in over five decades since 1969”.
“Now the weather is unpredictable. Climate change has outwitted the weatherman,” he said.
He added he has received urgent calls for help from villagers living on a riverbank in Peta Village, some 120 kilometers (70 miles) north of Yong Peng.
“People are crying out for food and medicine. The only way to provide food and clothing is by air,” he said.
Malaysia has faced unprecedented torrential rains since the annual monsoon season, which began in November. The worst flooding in decades last happened in 2014, forcing around 118,000 people to flee their homes.
The Southeast Asian nation often experiences stormy weather towards the end of the year, with seasonal flooding regularly leading to mass evacuations and deaths.
“Unusual” amount of precipitation
But Meenakshi Raman, president of environmental group Friends of the Earth Malaysia, said the large amount of rainfall was “unusual” at this time of year and blamed the flooding on the lack of green space.
“Deforestation and land clearing in the headwaters of our rural areas, cities and towns mean that our rivers and drains are clogged by soil erosion and cannot accommodate the increased rainfall.
“In addition, overconcreting of areas also leads to water flooding, since little green remains as sponge.”
The Meteorological Department has warned that the rain could continue into April.
Some victims were fatalistic.
“We just accept whatever God has given. What can we do?” said Kabibah Siam, 54.
“We can’t complain about our luck because everyone is going through the same thing here.”
© 2023 AFP
Citation: At least four dead, thousands evacuated in Malaysia floods (March 4, 2023) Retrieved March 4, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-03-dead-thousands-evacuated-malaysia.html
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