Disaster first response impeded

PETALING JAYA: The National Security Council (NSC) disaster management was hampered when its staff at the district level were themselves victims of the flood.

The NSC cited a “complete collapse” of its disaster management team at the district levels in the East Coast as the cause of delays in rescue and relief efforts.

Getting individuals and companies to donate food and other supplies was the “easiest” part – the trouble in finding and rescuing the displaced and working out which area was the worst affected magnified when communications systems were down.

The NSC secretary Datuk Mohamed Thajudeen Abdul Wahab said their national disaster management team functioned by communicating from federal to state, and state to district level.

This time, however, the team at the district level had been hit themselves.

He said the massive floods which hit Kelantan and Terengganu in 1967 and then in 2004, were “nothing compared to the floods this year”.

“In the districts, the frontliners of our disaster management machinery include the village headman and district officers.

“But due to the magnitude of the floods, most districts were completely inundated.

“Our entire district machinery collapsed as they had become victims themselves.

“At this point electricity supply had to be cut to ensure victims do not get electrocuted.

“This made communications even more challenging, with downed lines handphones with drained batteries and no power.

“For us to know where help was needed and how bad each district was hit became the biggest problem,” he said yesterday.

“To make things worse, accessing these districts became impossible during the peak of the flooding between Dec 23 to Dec 27.”

“We could not use heavy vehicles, the currents were too strong to use boats and the winds were too turbulent to go by air,” he said.

Now, he said, the peak was over and things were getting “slightly better” as it was possible to deliver aid by air and on the ground.

He said 15 helicopters had been deployed in Kelantan alone. But there were still areas in the flood stricken states where helicopters had no landing ground and it was either government agencies, NGOs, or ad hoc leaders on the ground taking charge of distributing aid.

While the NSC coordinated the rescue and relief efforts, the agencies conducting the actual rescue efforts include the Fire and Rescue Department, army, police and Civil Defence Department.

The Meteorological Department yesterday issued its highest “Red Stage” warning for heavy rains in Dungun and Kemaman in Terengganu, Kuantan, Pekan and Rompin in Pahang and Mersing in Johor.

It said intermittent and occasional rain is expected to continue until Wednesday.

According to Bernama, the number of flood victims evacuated were 147,072, in Kelantan, 35,501 in Pahang, 32,210 in Terengganu, 7.407 in Perak and 175 in Johor.

Related stories:

Horror and heart-wrenching tales from hard-hit areas

Orang asli in dire need of supplies

Major roads in Kelantan now open to all traffic

Parents have mixed feelings over extended school leave

Commercial copters take to the skies to deliver aid

New school session to start a week later 

Situation getting worse in eight districts in Pahang

‘MCA has collected nearly RM1mil in cash, food and essential items’

Former NS trainees volunteer at evacuation centres

PM: Don’t believe in rumours

Tonnes of goods flown to Kota Baru

Businesses lend a helping hand to flood victims 

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