Prime ministerial visit

 

Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the prime minister, made a detour to Johor's flood victims on Saturday from his scheduled holiday visit to Australia.

 

"We want to ensure that everyone gets to return home safely," the national Bernama news agency quoted him as saying after visiting a shelter in Johor.

 

The floods, which followed this week's heaviest rainfall in a century, submerged buildings and cut off roads in Kota Tinggi and several other towns in Johor, which borders Singapore.

 

Newspapers reported looting in the towns of Kota Tinggi and Segamat.

 

There were also cases of rescuers demanding money from flood victims before rescuing them, the Star newspaper said.

 

"I was desperate and did not know what to do," the Star quoted Abdul Rashid Maidin, one of several people whom it said paid the money.

 

Flood victims also complained of a lack of food, clothing, blankets and running water at many of the relief shelters.

 

Criticism

 

Opposition leaders criticised the government's handling of the crisis.

 

"A full and independent inquiry into the monster floods in southern peninsula Malaysia and the horror stories of inhumanity, greed and incompetence is clearly warranted," said Lim Kit Siang, parliamentary opposition leader.

 

In neighbouring Indonesia, authorities said at least five people were killed and 70,000 others driven from their homes by flash floods, following two days of heavy rain in Aceh's eastern coastal areas.

 

Damage

 

Local officials said the region's rice paddies were damaged and cattle killed by the rising waters.

 

In North Sumatra province, one person died and twelve were missing after floodwaters up to two metres high surged through 12 districts.

 

"One died and 12 people are missing, but we cannot confirm yet whether the missing have died or not," Syam Sumarno, spokesman of Langkat regency in North Sumatra, said.

 

Sumarno blamed heavy rains and the heavy deforestation of the region for the flood's destruction.

 

"About 17,000 people are being evacuated," he said.