Military alumni to the rescue to assist east coast villagers

  • Community
  • Friday, 09 Jan 2015

Lending a hand: Villagers helping to carry supplies from helicopter to the collection center.

THE idea of organising a flood relief mission by the Old Putera Association (OPA) came about on Dec 25 as members of the alumni group felt uncomfortable enjoying the festive season while many were battling floods in the east coast.

“We discussed it at our former classmate’s daughter’s wedding reception and began thinking up ways of helping out,” said retired Malaysian Army major Datuk Mohamad Bustaman Abdullah, who is now an intellectual rights lawyer.

The task of transport and logistics was the first to come to mind.

A Flood Charity Chest had already been set up at a local supermarket in USJ by an existing flood relief operation initiated by Jayafuddin Abdul Jalil from the Class of ‘95.

This was to be part of an operation that saw more than 100 alumni members, together with their family members, congregating at the OPA building in Saujana resort to sort, pack and transport supplies donated by the public and other OPA members till the wee hours of the morning.

The first batch of deliveries, weighing some 50 tonnes, arrived two days later at the Sultan Ismail Airport in Pengkalan Chepa, brought in by a Charlie C-130 belonging to the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF).

Accompanying the RMAF aircraft to help with the delivery was a Bell 407 helicopter piloted by Captain Sean Mah and chartered from Systematic Aviation Services.

Smaller and more maneuverable than the Augusta models used by the Malaysian Armed Forces, the Bell was sent to despatch supplies to Tumpat, Kuala Krai, Manik Urai and Pasir Mas, which had been inaccessible by road due to the floodwaters.

Upon completion of the Kelantan mission, another SOS came from Pahang, where Temerloh was badly affected by the second wave of floods.

By New Year’s Eve, the Bell had performed 24 sorties and 13 taskings.

One of them would be a medical evacuation involving Shaiful Nahar Jazulley, 50, a heart patient from Kampung Teluk Sentang where pilot and crew had to carry the wheelchair-bound patient from a boat up a steep embankment to be flown to Hospital Tengku Ampuan Afzan.

“The operation was complicated as Shaiful was relying on a heart machine and the helicopter could only land in a tight spot.

“We could have landed in a badminton court but this was impossible as the nets and poles were still up,” Bustaman said.

Bustaman, who flew in the Bell as a volunteer to deliver supplies, recounted his experiences visiting the stricken villages.

“Without a topography map, navigation was a challenge but fortunately, I could rely on my GPS app.

“When we arrived at the villages, we realised how creative people could get during such challenging times.

“The villagers had taken the initiative to mark landing spots in their villages. They were also very cooperative and even formed human chains to pass the goodies from the helicopter doors to the collection centre,” said Bustaman.

The 57-year-old Pahang native said this was the worst flooding he had ever experienced.

“When we were children, we could still play in the water, which at most only came up to knee level. Now, the water is swallowing entire villages,” he said.

The OPA flood relief mission saw the delivery of 70 tonnes of supplies over one week. Among the donors who responded to the mission were Marrybrown Restaurant, Adabi Food Industries, Perbadanan Menteri Besar Kelantan, Mydin, Malaysia Oil and Gas Service Council and Cocoaland, which donated half a tonne of biscuits.

In total, the class of 1974 alone was responsible for raising more than RM100,000 for the OPA flood relief mission.

They are currently working on phase two — a fundraising effort to pay for a clean-up operation for five places of worship in Kelantan.

“We do not want to be over ambitious and undertake the clean-up ourselves as we are all getting older.

“This collaboration will be facilitated by Perbadanan Menteri Besar Kelantan (PMBK), which will identify the places of worship and select 30 local youths for the project.

“We will pay the local youth daily pocket money of RM50 each per day for five days,” said Bustaman.

Funds raised will also go towards purchasing equipments such as pressure jets, cleaning apparatus and detergent. The clean-up is scheduled to begin this week.

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