Lawmakers upset over government’s ‘disappointing’ flood response

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Pakatan Harapan (PH) lawmakers in Selangor want to know why there were delays in the state and federal government getting aid to flood-hit areas in their constituencies.

Despite Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s instruction to ministries, the first to arrive on the scene were ordinary people, civil society groups, PH lawmakers told The Malaysian Insight.

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Meru assemblyman Mohd Fakhrulrazi Mohd Mokhtar said no department or agency was seen in his constituency.

“We have been relying on independent groups, not the government, the response from which has been very slow.

“I am sorry, but it is very unproductive and very disappointing coming from the government,” he said.

Meru is one of several places in Klang badly by flooding over the weekend, following a continuous downpour starting on Friday morning.

Although it is the season for the northeast monsoon – when states on the east coast are usually affected – the unusually high volume of rainfall in the Klang Valley in particular seemed to have caught the authorities unprepared.

This was despite notice of heavier than usual rain, due to monsoon factors and a low-pressure weather system over the South China Sea, detected by the Meteorological Department on December 12.

Meanwhile, one month ago, the Selangor government issued a notice that high rainfall was to be expected in November and December, and instructed agencies to prepare for possible flooding.

At a press conference late on December 18, Ismail said that the government’s immediate priority would be to rescue stranded people and deliver food aid.

He also said on the same night that all ministries had been directed to mobilise their assets to flood-hit areas.

However, following his Saturday night press conference and Facebook post, volunteers were the first to arrive in Taman Sri Muda, Shah Alam, spending the day in kayaks and small boats, attempting to reach stranded residents and deliver food.

Kota Anggerik assemblyman Najwan Halimi said victims in his area had to sleep on flood-soaked floors without mattresses.

“The government’s response was slow. Help came from ordinary people, religious groups, and civil society groups, not from the government. We haven’t seen anyone from the government,” Najwan said.

The state government should bear part of the blame, too, Klang MP Charles Santiago said.

“The state is equally responsible for poor planning,” he told The Malaysian Insight.

The DAP MP said both state and federal governments had done a “terrible job” in taking precautionary measures after learning of the heavy rainfall.

He said he had requested help from the fire department to rescue a person trapped in a car on Saturday, but the department said it could not help because it was short-staffed.

Santiago said manpower shortages could be avoided with prior planning by drafting firefighters from other states or at least putting them on standby.

He added that there should have also been a hotline or channel for people to call immediately to request help, as soon as water levels had started to rise.

Likewise, he said numbers for people to obtain information, particularly about flood relief centres, should already have been made available.

“The government’s response was very weak and sometimes non-existent,” he said.

Santiago’s Klang constituency is one of the worst flood-stricken areas in Selangor. He added that, amid the government delays, members of the public had stepped in to help.

A 35-year-old local man, who volunteered but did not want to be named, said he did not see any coordinated government effort.

“The flood is one of the worst in Selangor, but we have not seen anyone from the government. There is no coordination at all between state officials, government agencies, or the authorities.

“On social media, you can see that the victims did not make up their stories. They were left stranded without assistance, some were left for days,” he said.

According to the prime minister, the National Disaster Management Agency had been told to coordinate with elected representatives in every constituency, as they would have information on the worst-hit areas and flood victims.

As of yesterday evening, the floods have claimed 11 lives: nine in Selangor and two in Pahang.

Four people are also missing: one in Shah Alam and three in Bentong, Pahang.

Nationwide, more than 40,000 people have been displaced, according to Bernama. Besides Selangor, the floods have struck Pahang, Malacca, Negri Sembilan, Terengganu, Kelantan and Perak. – TMI