PENGKALAN CHEPA, Malaysia (AFP) – Rescue teams struggled Saturday to reach inundated areas of northeast Malaysia as victims accused the government of being slow to provide assistance after the country’s worst flooding in decades.
Malaysians have vented their anger at Prime Minister Najib Razak after the release of photos which went viral on social media showing him playing golf with US President Barack Obama during the storms.
The number of people forced to flee their homes climbed past 120,000 with weather forecasters warning of no respite for the northeastern states of Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang.
The under-fire-Najib was expected to arrive in Kelantan Saturday to lead the national flood response after cutting short his vacation in Hawaii, his aide Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad told AFP.
The government has allocated about $14 million to manage relief centres.
Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin admitted rescuers were facing challenges with power outages and roads being washed away by the floods.
“I admit the situation is challenging to the rescue workers and we are trying our best to make sure that the food arrives to the victims depending on the flood situation,” he was quoted as saying by the Star newspaper.
Military helicopters and trucks were seen in Kota Baharu area, which is near the border with southern Thailand, but rescue efforts were being hampered by fast rising waters and strong currents while roads to hard-hit areas were impassable.
“The severity and scale of the floods had taken the authorities completely by surprise as it was worse than anticipated, overwhelming all disaster management plans and preparations,” Lim Kit Siang, veteran opposition MP with the Democratic Action Party said in a statement Saturday.
Kelantan, one of the worst-affected areas, is led by the opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) and is one of the poorest states in the country.
From the air, parts of the state capital Kota Baharu resembled a vast, muddy lake, with row after row of rooftops peeking out of the murky waters.
Tempers were frayed among people sheltering at a crowded relief centre just outside Kota Bharu, with fears the situation would worsen as it continued to rain in surrounding areas.
“I am angry with them (the government). We don’t care about their politics. We just want the government to do what they should do and help us,” 23-year-old Farhana Suhada, who works for a courier service, told AFP.
Holding on tightly to her six-month-old baby, she said: “For breakfast I had three biscuits and tea. There’s not enough water and no food at all for my baby. I had to buy my own milk,” she said.
Suhada was forced to abandon her home four days ago after flood waters rose quickly almost to neck level.
“I have lost everything, including huge damage to my house and my car and motorcycle,” said Suhada, who was among 200 people seeking refuge in a two-storey school.
Many flood victims were seen lying on the floor while children ran around.
Nur Fatin Nurnabilah, 13, said it was her first experience of floods and was afraid for her family’s future.
“I am scared and I miss my home,” she said. “I am scared because I can’t swim. And we lost everything we had.”