JOHOR ushered in the new year with a 10-minute fireworks display in Mersing town.
There was a slight drizzle at that time with strong winds.
The locals of this coastal town were blissfully unaware of the storm raging in Johor Baru, about 200km away, that had already forced dozens of people out of their homes.
Subsequently, the seasonal rains led to floods in eight out of the 10 districts in Johor.
This eventually included the touristy part of Mersing.
Due to the change in the monsoon season, there are always floods in parts of the country every year around this time.
It was no different in 2021. There was heavy rainfall soon after New Year’s Day here in Johor where total evacuees breached over 7,000 in almost 70 relief centres statewide.
Kota Tinggi and Kluang were the worst hit as these two areas made up 50% of the total number of evacuees in the state.
In the last few days, two deaths have also been reported in Johor. Both casualties were victims of rising waters in Kluang.
At the height of the floods, more than 17 roads were cut off, especially in Kota Tinggi.
The task of evacuating residents this year was made more challenging for both the victims and the people tasked with helping in flood relief efforts due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
With Covid-19 infections hovering at three digits daily in Johor, it was an arduous task for the authorities to ensure there were no clusters emerging from among those placed at these centres.
The state government has announced additional measures to deal with the situation including compulsory health screening for those coming to the centres, placing families in tents to ensure there is some sort of social distancing, limiting the number of people in each room and giving out packed food instead of having huge cookouts.
At present, Johor has recorded more than 6,500 Covid-19 cases with 35 deaths.
As of Monday, only three districts in Johor (Segamat, Mersing and Tangkak) were not categorised as red zones.
The state government, which is already stretched thin in providing welfare aid to those hit hard by the pandemic, will now need to dig deeper into its coffers to provide help to those affected by the floods.
Additional funds will be needed to purchase face masks, hand sanitisers, gloves and other protective equipment for those at relief centres and people carrying out rescue operations.
All relief centres need to be regularly sanitised. People with symptoms like flu, fever and cough should be immediately isolated and treated to prevent any outbreaks.
Food and water being distributed to the evacuees should be up to the mark and cooked properly to ensure people do not suffer from food poisoning.
The Welfare Department should always have adequate stock of essential supplies and warm blankets for those seeking shelter at the relief centres.
The federal and state government should also be ready to release additional funds to repair public amenities and infrastructure such as roads or bridges damaged due to the floods.
Besides the government, NGOs and church groups have come forward to provide aid including handing out essentials and aid to locals and foreigners such as the Rohingya community affected by the floods.
Sunny skies in Johor Baru and Kota Tinggi yesterday have brought about some respite with the number of flood evacuees slowing coming down to the 5,000 mark.
But there should be no resting on our laurels.
According to the weatherman, rainy days are predicted to go on until Jan 10.
And in the meantime, mind your SOP!