Severe flooding has killed 18 people and left at least 180,000 displaced in Malaysia and neighbouring Thailand, officials said.
In Malaysia, rescue teams on Saturday were struggling to reach inundated areas in the northeast as victims accused the government of being slow to provide aid and 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 massive flooding, caused by torrential northeast monsoon rains, has so far left five people dead.
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.
|Notes From The Field: Al Jazeera’s Veronica Pedrosa in Thailand|
Eight provinces in southern Thailand may have been declared disaster zones, but so far there’s been a pretty low key reaction here. These rains are seasonal and expected and so they’ve become part of the pattern of life for people in the southern provinces of Yala and Pattani.
In the local Thai-language media the lead for the story was that police had asked people not to drive to the area to see the floods because they’d cause traffic jams. The newspapers also reported children are swimming in the floodwaters.
That’s not to say the situation isn’t serious. Aerial photos show whole towns under water and reports say they’re waist deep. Nearly 8,000 residents have been displaced and 13 people killed.
The official reaction has been focused on hydro-management. The governor of Yala province is warning the Bang Lang dam is more than 99 percent full and water would have to be released downriver to villages in Yala and Pattani that had already been flooded.
The under-fire-Najib meanwhile, arrived in Kelantan after cutting short his holiday in Hawaii to lead the national flood response after cutting short his vacation in Hawaii and was expected to
meet flood victims..
The government has allocated about $14m 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 Bharu 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 on 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 Bharu resembled a vast, muddy lake, with row after row of rooftops peeking out of the murky waters.
Tempers flared 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.
Neighbouring Thailand’s disaster prevention and mitigation department on Friday declared disaster zones in eight of its southern provinces after floods killed at least 13 people.
The zones are in Surat Thani, Nakhon Sri Thammarat, Pattalung, Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat, Songkhla and also Trang, which has been flooded since mid-December.
More than 184,000 households have been affected by the floods and nearly 8,000 displaced, according to the department.
Although the water level is receding in Nakorn Sri Thammarat and Surat Thani provinces, authorities are monitoring the situation around the clock