KUALA BETIS: At the Kuala Betis orang asli settlement RPS Block C in Kelantan, donated tents and bamboo huts line the sides of the narrow tarred road leading into the village.
Many flood victims are still staying inside these tents and huts since the devastating floods late last year.
Alang Jambu, a Temiar, whose home is now a makeshift bamboo hut, lives in Kampung Sentep with his wife and four children.
“A tiger appeared near our tent in the wee hours of the morning about two months ago,” he said.
“It was frightening but fortunately, we were not harmed,” Alang said, adding that since then, they would build a camp fire every night to keep wild animals away.
Despite the challenges they faced, the 44-year-old and his family had planted 1ha of tapioca for the villagers.
Recalling Dec 22 when the heavy rains began, Alang said his family moved to nearby Kampung Angkek three days later when Sungai Nenggiri in front of their house overflowed.
“I had to swim and walk to Kuala Betis town to buy groceries,” he said, adding that the hanging bridge in nearby Kampung Podek collapsed, too.
He wrapped a packet of sugar, tea and cooking oil in a sarong swung over his shoulder and swam back, but the sugar was soaked by that time.
“It was difficult. I had to dive into floodwaters to feel my way through and pull out some tapioca that could still be eaten,” he said.
Alang said their ancestors had warned them of bah merah (big red flood) that might recur but the recent disaster seemed more severe as it was filled with mud, silt and rotting wood.
He said the orang asli had to drink water from the river that was polluted by logging activities, resulting in many of them suffering skin allergies and illnesses.
The authorities had provided an underground water pump in 2012 but it stopped working after three months. “And, despite reports made, it had not been repaired,” he claimed.
“Thirty years ago, the water from the river was clean and we could fish. We could easily catch the kelah fish without travelling far into the interiors,” he added.
Like many other orang asli villagers, Alang said they had written letters to the state government, police, Land Office and Department of Orang Asli Development about their problems.
While Alang was fortunate that he had received building materials for a new house on Feb 20 from a non-governmental organisation, many others still have not gotten anything yet.
Asked why his house was built within the flood-affected site, 15m away from his old house, he said the NGO did not have machinery to take building materials uphill.
For this reason, his family had built a bamboo hut in Kampung Angkek in the event of another disaster.
Sisters Lisa Rosman, 25, and Nana, 22, said they still did not have a house.
Lisa said they could not afford to buy the tools to build one.
“It is not comfortable living in the tent, and we want to live in a wooden house,” she said.
In Kampung Podek, a group of women and children sat in a makeshift bamboo hut and chatted. Across the road stood a tent where they would spend the night.
Aizam Rosli, 32, merely shrugged her shoulders and said “I don’t know” when asked when her house would be built.
“We don’t have the money,” said the mother of four who, like many orang asli there, ate only tapioca and vegetables for their daily meals.
Her cousin Katijah Asim, 21, who also slept in the same tent that could fit two families, said she hoped that the authorities would build their houses soon.