BALING: At least three people, including a pregnant woman, died and hundreds of others were displaced in possibly the worst floods to hit this district in the southeast of Kedah.
The rain started falling at about 4pm on Monday and, within hours, several villages were submerged under floodwater.
Waves of muddy water and fallen trees also swept down from nearby Gunung Inas and more than 85 houses are believed to have been completely destroyed.
The bodies of Salmah Mat Akib, 53, and her daughter-in-law Nurul Anis Abu Hassan, 23, who was four months’ pregnant, were found in an embrace under a pile of logs between 9.30am and noon yesterday.
The body of Salmah’s 14-year-old son, Khairul Ikhwan Nor Azman, was found not far away.
Others gave accounts of nightmare stories.
Hasnah Ismail, 58, told of how she was swept away but managed to save herself by clinging on to a palm tree for more than an hour until a rescue team reached her.
She said she and her husband decided to climb a rambutan tree near their house when the water rose.
“When I saw the rambutan tree was almost falling, my husband (Che Nai Isa, 59) and I tried to grab on to drifting logs, but he missed and was swept away.
“Fortunately, he grabbed a bamboo pole while I managed to cling on to a palm tree.
“We were in the water for about an hour before the rescue team found us.
“I thought I was going to die,” she said at the temporary relief centre at SMK Jerai.
“When we were in the water, drifting logs struck my back several times. Thank God, we were both not injured,” she added, describing the flood as the worst she had experienced in all her life at Kampung Padang Empal.
“Normally, if the water rises, it would only be ankle- or calf-deep.
“This is the first time my house was completely under water. I could not save anything.”
Hasnah’s daughter Nor Alia, 20, a person with disabilities, was rescued earlier by a relative who carried her on his shoulders.
Another flood victim, Siti Mariam Abdul Isa, 70, said her husband, who had been partially paralysed for the past nine years, was underwater briefly as he was sleeping on a mattress on the floor.
“We (my son and grandson) were busy moving our belongings to higher ground and we quickly took him upstairs when the water rose above his bed,” she said.
Siti Hajar Said, 32, said she was sad she could not save her belongings, or her pet cat and rabbit.
“The rain started at about 4pm and the water began to rise at 5pm. In less than 30 minutes, it reached roof level.”
With the widespread devasation, Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor has requested that a Level I or II emergency be declared in areas that were critically affected to speed up operations by state and federal agencies.
He said declaring an emergency would make it easier for the agencies to quickly repair damaged infrastructure and restore basic facilities.
He said the matter would be decided at the State Disaster Management Committee meeting to be chaired by Kedah State Secretary Datuk Ammar Shaikh Mahmood Naim today.
While many blamed rampant logging for the floods, Energy and Natural Resources Minister Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan said no active logging activities had been reported in the Gunung Inas Forest Reserve area that could have led to a water surge phenomenon.
He said forest development was being carried out for reforestation purposes and so far, more than 5,000 trees had been planted in a 52ha area.