MIRI: Flood-hit folk in rural Sarawak are appealing to the Federal Government to commence the distribution of Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia (BR1M) immediately in view of their current situation.
A community elder from Long Panai and former councillor of Long Lama, Ding Laeng, told The Star yesterday that there were hundreds of families across Ulu Baram whose farms had been destroyed by floods about a week ago.
Even his own longhouse had been regularly inundated since Christmas Eve and yesterday, the water level reached the 1m mark.
According to him, the Welfare Department and the local District Office had been distributing sacks of rice, instant noodles and cooking oil to the affected folk in various parts of Baram.
However, Laeng stressed that the food aid could not make up for the losses incurred by the folk there.
“The Government need to start distributing the BR1M now. The amount is supposed to be RM1,200 this time around, as announced during the Budget. We cannot wait because we need the money urgently to buy fuel, cooking gas as well as necessities like rice, meat, fish and vegetables.
“Our paddy fields have been submerged in water for about one week now. We cannot go fishing in the rivers due to rising water level and raging currents,” he said.
Apart from his 117-door longhouse in Long Panai, Laeng said he was also told that the villages in Long Ikang and Batu Berah were also flooded.
“This is just the beginning of the landas (monsoon) season. It could become worse later. As such, we in the rural areas hope the Government would disburse the BR1M as soon as possible,” he said.
For now, Laeng said, the Ulu Baram folk could still travel to Marudi town and here in four-wheel drive vehicles but the journey was very treacherous through the muddy timber roads.
“Sometimes if it rains continuously for more than an hour, there would be flash floods along the lower parts of these roads. When this happens, travellers are left stranded until the rain stops and the water subsides,” he said.
When asked whether any government official had issued notice on when the next BR1M would be distributed, Laeng said so far no longhouse had received any written or verbal notification.
For next year, the BR1M will be increased to RM1,200 from the previous RM500, but the new amount will be paid out in two parts of RM600 each.