Flood victims worry about source of income

Zulkhari Lan Abdullah from Senai, helps remove the mud and grime from his in-laws’ home in Spang Loi. — Picture by Malay Mail
Zulkhari Lan Abdullah from Senai, helps remove the mud and grime from his in-laws’ home in Spang Loi. — Picture by Malay Mail

SEGAMAT, Jan 31 — Rural communities hit hard by the floods will face a tough time ahead as the floods not only damaged their homes, but cut off their main source of income.

Villages such as Spang Loi, which rely heavily on the surrounding land to sustain themselves, now depend on the daily delivery of dry and wet goods.

A total of 225 victims from 69 families were evacuated to SK Spang Loi due to the floods since last Wednesday.

Spang Loi is a village located 40km from Segamat. 

It was formed in 1950 during the Emergency as part of General Sir Harold Briggs’ forced resettlement plan to combat the communist threat. 

The original village consisted of only 30 families who relied on palm oil and rubber along with vegetable farming to sustain themselves.

Today, the over 122 families that reside in the village still depend on agriculture as their main source of income.

Mustaffa Yusop, 54, said the village mainly survived  on farming and rubber tapping.

But now, they are caught in a lurch because of the floods.

“Most of the estates and orchards in the area are damaged,” he said.

“It usually takes two to three weeks for rubber tappers and vegetables growers to get back on their feet. However, for palm oil planters with would take on average six to eight months before we can harvest the fruits,” he said.

However, Mustafa, who have been living in Spang Loi since 1964, said the community had always come back stronger each time they faced a major challenge.

“The community here, mostly those above 80, have seen the worst during the Emergency. For them, the floods are just another fact of life they have to go through,” he said.

“They have a strong resolution to move on and rebuild their lives. We have learnt to unite and help each other as much as possible.” 

The floods have forced estate worker and single mother Julia Omar, 48, to fully depend on help from aid organisations.

“I earn RM38 a day managing compost and fertilisers at a palm oil plantation, but with the estate cut off by the floods, I can’t get to work,” she said.

“On a good month, I can earn up to RM900 and that would be enough to sustain me and my seven children. This month, I might have to rely heavily on supplies at the evacuation centre and carefully budget the RM300 I received every month from the Welfare Department,” she said.

Rubber tapper Ismail Sengah, 63, said he was used to floods occurring almost every year in Spang Loi.

But this year, he said, the floods could not have come at the worst time.

“The floods have greatly jeopardised my income from the rubber trees,” he said.

“I have not been able to visit my plantation for almost a week now and I’m worried whether I can earn enough to sustain myself.’’

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