KUALA LUMPUR: The return of the Harakah volunteer team from flood affected areas in Kelantan some time, had brought along with it a thousand painful images of the suffering and destruction it witnessed.
Sharing his experiences with English Section, Harakah managing director Dr Rosli Yaakop said no words could describe the seriousness of the situation that had struck the people.
"There are victims who have totally lost their homes; I asked one of the villagers there where his house was, and he said all had been swept away by the strong currents from the floods, leaving only the stairs.”
"Other houses suffered major damage, and would require extensive repair work," he said when contacted recently.
The former Bank Negara deputy director said despite all that had happened, he was very impressed to see the flood victims.
Although the flood victims had lost almost everything, their will and determination remained strong, he said.
"A few villagers who had just returned from a nearby evacuation centre immediately set upon repairing their houses, and when asked whether the damage was too severe to be repaired, they replied, as long as they had got a supply of wooden planks, their houses could definitely be repaired,” he added.
“The saddest moment for me,” he lamented, “ was when I witnessed that everything in the victims’ houses were no longer usable and these included mattresses, pillows, gas stoves, and clothes still in the closets as it was covered with mud.”
"When I was there, I was only able to give a few words of encouragement," he continued.
He stressed that the humanitarian aid delivered was not much but hopefully it would reduce the victims’ burden.
Among the necessities given to victims included sugar, flour, soap, detergents, and most of all, new school uniforms.
"Harakah with its limited funds can only do so much,” he said.
He hoped more concerned citizens and non-governmental groups would chip in and come forward to assist the flood victims.
"Harakah plans to send another team next week. Maybe we’ll be able to bring along items that have been requested," he said, before ending the conversation.
Dr Rosli was among more than twenty Harakah staff that had left for Kelantan Jan 15, with the aim of bringing along much needed items the most difficult places that could be reached such as Manek Urai and Gua Musang.
Former Harakah deputy editor in chief and columnist, Abdul Shukor Harun who was also in the mission said it was a very humbling experience being there in Kelantan.
“In my opinion it was successful mission and we managed to send aid to our targetted rural areas”, he said when contacted by English Section.
“For the coming mission, we should bring more items such as blankets as the weather there now is cold during the nights.”
“I also saw that there were some infrastructural problems with regard to the drainage, irrigation and rivers, some were unclean, and these areas are those not affected by the floods. It is my hope that the various district councils, parliamentarians and assemblymen could focus their attention more on rural development.”
“Take for example, the existence of dilapidated houses”, he said, “regardless of whether they were inundated by the floods or not, these houses are unsuitable to live in.”
Of course we can repair them; they need so much more work than that. They need to improve and rebuild to make it safe to live in”, he pointed out.
“We do not know when the construction of permanent replacement housing for the affected flood victim would commence, but to my understanding the state and federal government are doing their utmost,” he said.
“I had the opportunity to hear many hair raising stories regarding the recent flooding, whilst I was in Kelantan,” he added.
“I heard how a mother who had just given birth had to scramble out of her house and find safety as the water levels rose”.
“I was also told how a small house located on higher terrain, sheltered 40 flood victims, as they had nowhere else to go. Imagine the anxious atmosphere and the air of uncertainty everyone had to face.
I also heard how a mother with her one year old son, had to walk on a slippery wooden bridge, and it was floating on top of the flood waters.”
“The floating bridge was hazardous but she had no choice but to save herself and her family. You can only imagine how serious the dangers everyone had to face in the recent floods.” - ES