‘Where’s the help?’: Malaysia PM under fire after deadly floods

Worst flooding since 2014 left at least 48 people dead, five missing as the country seeks funding develop a plan to adapt to climate change.

Malaysia's Prime Minister Ismail Sabri has admitted 'weaknesses' in the flood response, but has pledged improvements in future [Ebrahim Harris/Reuters]

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob is facing a barrage of criticism as residents accused his government of responding too slowly after the country’s worst floods in years.

Days of torrential rain caused rivers to overflow last week, swamping cities and forcing tens of thousands of people to flee their homes, while leaving dozens of people dead.

Damaged appliances and soaked furniture were piled up on the streets and outside homes in flood-hit areas as residents and volunteers continued an enormous clean-up drive.

Affected residents were frustrated with the authorities with many still asking where the help was.

“I am angry. There is no assistance from the government… We need cash to rebuild our lives,” said Asniyati Ismail, who lives in a residential enclave in Shah Alam, the capital of Selangor state.

“There is mud everywhere, everything has been destroyed,” she told the AFP news agency, as her two children helped her clean.

The mounds of rubbish left in the area after the floods have also sparked fear of disease outbreaks.

Selangor, which encircles the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, was the state hit hardest by the floods.

Many in the Shah Alam district were left stranded in their homes with barely any food for days, before being evacuated on boats in a chaotic rescue operation.

“The government has been absolutely slow in the rescue mission,” resident Kartik Rao told AFP.

“And now they are slow in the clean-up operation. Even after seven days, the rubbish in this neighbourhood has not been cleaned up.”

Climate change risks

Prime Minister Ismail Sabri has admitted “weaknesses” in the flood response, but has pledged improvements in future.

“This post-flood work needs proper coordination as I do not want delay in the implementation process, including in providing assistance to flood victims,” the Prime Minister was quoted as saying by Malay Mail during his visit on Sunday to the affected area in Selangor.

“We also need to be prepared for the second wave of floods, if it happens.”

Malaysia is hit by floods annually during the monsoon season, from November to February, but the ones this month were the worst since 2014.

The floods have left at least 48 people dead and five missing across Malaysia, officials said.

Global warming has been linked to worsening floods.

An aerial view shows vehicles submerged in water in Shah Alam, one of the areas in Selangor state worst hit by last week’s floods [Ebrahim Harris/Reuters]

Because a warmer atmosphere holds more water, climate change increases the risk and intensity of flooding from extreme rainfall.

Kawitha Maratha, 39, and her four children were rescued by a boat after floodwater rose rapidly to the second floor of their house in Shah Alam.

Her husband died.

“The flood has destroyed our lives,” she said.

Amid the deadly floods, the government said on Monday that it is seeking $3m from the United Nations Green Climate Fund (GCF) to develop a national plan to adapt to climate change.

In response to questions sent to the Environment and Water Ministry on Malaysia’s approach to climate adaptation, Secretary-General Zaini Ujang told Reuters news agency that the ministry will request the GCF funds to help develop a National Adaptation Plan by the end of next year.

The plan will focus on areas such as water, agricultural and food security, public health, forestry, and infrastructure, Zaini said in a written response.

“The ministry also has long-term plans to request for climate funds that can assist in implementing programmes addressing the impact of climate change,” he said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies