Kota Baru struggles to rebuild after flood devastation

Gan Soon Hoe, 45, owner of MySports, helps his staff to clean the mud at his shop in Jalan Temenggong, December 30, 2014. — Picture by Syed Jaymal Zahiid
Gan Soon Hoe, 45, owner of MySports, helps his staff to clean the mud at his shop in Jalan Temenggong, December 30, 2014. — Picture by Syed Jaymal Zahiid

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KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 30 — Still counting their losses and without fresh water, businesses and residents here are fighting on to rebuild their lives ruined by the worst flood to hit the state in decades.

Many remain deeply worried by the final tally of losses that is still too early to determine, but the dreary outlook has not dampened their spirits to overcome this difficult time.

The lack of clean water due to supply disruptions have also exacerbated their predicament, and many are making do with water from sewers or taken from the muddy Kelantan River in order to start the clean-up early.

For businesses, further delays in operations could pile on the losses already caused by the floods, which means starting up early would be the best option.

“I think I’ll take at least one more week to resume operations. And a one-week delay could cost me RM30,000 in business,” sports apparel company MySports owner, Gan Soon Hoe, told Malay Mail Online.

Gan’s shop, located on Jalan Temenggong here, was among the most badly hit by the flood.

But for the 45-year-old, what was more saddening was not the damage done from the disaster, but the fact that some people took advantage of the situation to ransack his shop when it was closed down due to the flood.

“It’s their attitude. It’s saddening, really. You were supposed to help people in times of need, not exploit it,” he said.

A survey around his shop showed extensive damage to many of the sports apparel on sale as well as the display shelves, which had been submerged by water at waist level during the flood.

He said the lightning pace with which the water level rose prevented him and his staff from saving most of their products, which are now covered with thick, brown mud.

But as bleak as Gan’s outlook was, the general mood here is far from despondent.

Just across the road, several elderly women were busy selling cloth for hijabs at cheaply discounted rates, which was aimed at offsetting possible repair costs incurred by the flood.

Colourful cloth with several different motifs were sold as cheap as RM10 each, prompting excited consumers to engage in pushing and shoving to snap up the best designs available.

Several elderly women sell cloth for hijabs at cheaply discounted rates, which was aimed at offsetting possible repair costs incurred by the flood at Jalan Temenggong, December 30, 2014. — Picture by Syed Jaymal Zahiid
Several elderly women sell cloth for hijabs at cheaply discounted rates, which was aimed at offsetting possible repair costs incurred by the flood at Jalan Temenggong, December 30, 2014. — Picture by Syed Jaymal Zahiid

“We don’t usually do this but because of the flood, we need to cover the costs (of repairs),” one of the elderly women, who shied away from revealing her name, told Malay Mail Online.

The cloth came from a shop just behind the small table where the sale was being done. It was also badly damaged by the flood and was semi-closed at the time.

“It’s nice to get something like this. I guess it helps us forget about the flood for a while,” said one of the customers, who also declined to state her name.

The same kind of tenacity was displayed by most shop owners along Jalan Hamzah, an otherwise busy trading street now emptied by the thick mud covering the road and pavements.

Just nearby the cloth shop, Tan, a second generation owner of a decades-old sundry shop, said he and his wife will do anything to start cleaning up in order to resume operating as quickly as possible.

“We took water from the sewer. Anything just to clean up,” said the 68-year-old in fluent Kelantanese Malay.

Tan said his shop has been closed for five days and is expected to stay shut for another three days to be cleaned.

“We only had power today, so that gives us some hope to go back to business despite not having water,” he said, while his wife ranted from behind about how it was difficult for them to do anything without water.

Tan also said he expects to incur losses in the thousands.

Sundry shop owner Tan says he and his wife will do anything to start cleaning up in order to resume operating as quickly as possible at their shop in Jalan Temenggong, December 30, 2014. — Picture by Syed Jaymal Zahiid
Sundry shop owner Tan says he and his wife will do anything to start cleaning up in order to resume operating as quickly as possible at their shop in Jalan Temenggong, December 30, 2014. — Picture by Syed Jaymal Zahiid

For many such as Tan and Gan, losses caused by the floods would have to be covered privately as, like most of the small businesses that give life to trade in this town, both their shops are not insured.

Flood waters here have all, but receded since yesterday while badly-hit constituencies such as Kuala Krai and Gua Musang are experiencing a drastic drop in water levels.

According to Tan, the Kelantan PAS government has promised to provide assistance to those affected, but most businesses here have not seen any city council worker deployed to help as yet.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, upon returning from his trip to the US, said the federal government will allocate RM500 million to aid flood victims but it is not clear if this would include helping businesses cope with losses.

Kelantan was the first state to be hit by what has been dubbed as “Malaysia’s tsunami”, followed by Terengganu, Pahang, and later, Perak and Johor.

As at 2pm today, a total of 240,674 people have been evacuated from their homes in Terengganu, Kelantan, Pahang, Perak, Johor, Perlis, Selangor and Kedah.

Although floodwaters are gradually receding in Kuala Krai and Kota Baru, weather forecasters have warned that the worst is not yet over in Kelantan, Pahang and Terengganu.

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