Reports by TAN SIN CHOW, ROYCE TAN, CRYSTAL CHIAM SHIYING and RENA LIM
Photos by GOH GAIK LEE , ASRI ABDUL GHA NI, MUSTAFA AH MAD, GAR Y CHE N and CHA N BOON KAI
GEORGE TOWN: It was a devastating night. The pounding rain sounded the warning bells and The Star’s advertising sales support executive Mabel Chua knew what was about to come – again.
Gathering all the household items and important documents, Chua and her uncle threw whatever they could on top of their old cupboards and onto the top bunk of her double decker bed.
She then reached for her car keys and drove her car across to the food court in Taman Free School, away from her house in Lengkok P. Ramlee and parked it there in the hope that it would be safe. The rain did not stop, and by 1am, the water had risen up to her knee.
In despair, Chua moved her 78-year-old mother Neoh Say Im and 80-year-old aunt Cheang Hooi Pow into her uncle Mano Cheang’s room on an elevated floor, and the four of them waited there. Mano, the only man at home, is 65.
In an hour, the water had risen again, this time to their waist, and it soon reached up to their chins.
The family of four tried to call for help but the rest of the neighbourhood was in dire need of help too. So they stood there, soaked in the muddy flood waters, and shivering in the cold.
It was hard for them to cope, they could hardly move and Neoh didn’t have her walking stick, as the water had carried it away.
“I couldn’t even find my dentures as they had been washed away!” Neoh said. “It was scary, I have been living here for 40 years and this is the first time the flood has been this bad,” she added.
After four long hours, help finally arrived in the form of the Fire and Rescue Department boat. The officers assisted by getting them all on board and took them away to safety.
Several volunteers walked beside the boat, keeping it steady as water gushed in from different directions.
“It was bad before, but this has been the worst,” Chua said. “We used to be able to escape and go somewhere else but this time, we couldn’t leave the room because there was just so much water and the water was flowing too fast for us to get through,” she recounted.
The victims of the flood in that area were later housed at a surau in Taman Free School, and Chua took shelter at a friend’s place.
During the evacuation, Cheang admitted that he was worried he would not be able to get the women safely onto the boat.
“Fortunately, Chua was not working on that day! Had it been the three of us, I am not sure we would have been able to get help on our own,” Cheang said.
“Neoh could hardly walk so she was sitting on a chair, and I carried her, along with two other volunteers who had come to help,” Cheang said.
“The boat was very shaky because the water kept rushing in and we were worried that it would topple over. We don’t know how to swim and even if we could, we had no energy left,” Neoh said.
Chua and her family returned to their damaged house a day later even though the water hadn’t fully receded.
“My uncle and I went back home on Sunday morning and with the help of two friends, we cleared some of the mess. The front door was blocked by the wooden altar and it took four of us to move it out of the way. It was horrible. I didn’t know whether to cry or to laugh,” said Chua.
“Everything was damaged ... our cupboards, furniture, fridge and everything that was in it. It is just very sad. We have to start all over.”
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