Floods: Pitas villagers bemoan worst incident to hit one of Sabah’s poorest districts

Civil Defence Force personnel rescuing flood victims in one of the villages

KOTA KINABALU: Jaisah Ingkal, a grandmother of six, was preparing for the worst when she saw rain clouds forming in the sky earlier this week.

According to her, floods are an annual fixture at her village of Kampung Taka in Pitas, a district reported to be one of the eight poorest districts in Sabah, some 175km north of the state capital.

But unlike previous years, the 72-year-old vegetable seller was caught off guard with the speed of the rising flood waters.

"I did not expect the water to go up so quickly and the current was strong as well ... all my vegetables I intended to sell were destroyed," she said when met at a temporary flood relief centre in Pitas on Thursday (Jan 26).

On Tuesday (Jan 24), together with other traders, she hastened home from the market after getting news of the rising water levels but was shocked to see her home already flooded.

"I did not have time to save my things and important documents because I could not go up to my house," Jaisah said.

"My children and grandchildren also had to rush out from our house to save themselves.

"After reaching the flood relief centre at SK Pekan Pitas 2, I was informed by emergency responders that the water had almost reached (the highest point) of the windows in my house," she added.

She said personnel from the Civil Defence Force (APM) had earlier rescued her and several other neighbours before transferring them to the flood relief shelter on Tuesday (Jan 24).

According to Jaisah, her village was frequently flooded in the past.

"But it has never been this bad. All our belongings and documents are now gone.

"We hope the government will help us as we have been significantly affected by this disaster," she said.

Expectant mother Zamnizah Zaib, who is six months pregnant, stays in another village but agreed with Jaisah that this was the most severe flooding to have taken place in the district in recent memory.

"The floods take place every year and houses like mine which sit along the riverbank are the worst hit but we never anticipated the magnitude and the rate at which the water went up," the 35-year-old said.

Fortunately for Zamnizah, her husband was at home to help her and their other children to flee on a boat when the floods hit Kampung Pengkalan Ferry.

"“My husband managed to go back to our house (briefly) and told us it was almost submerged and many of our belongings have been damaged," she said.

Pitas assistant district officer Marck@Hassan Libau said almost 2,000 people from 31 villages from the district were affected by the disaster.

He said the Pitas disaster control operations centre was still waiting for an official report from the flood shelters, adding the number of those displaced could further rise if the weather did not improve.

He added that most of the flood victims have been relocated to more than 10 shelters in the district.

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