KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 7 — Residents of Taman Sri Nanding here have adopted an air of resignation and self-reliance in an effort to recover from the severe flooding that swept the area, with some saying help from officials has not been forthcoming.
According to Harun Tahir, 70, who was born here, he and his wife have had to undertake the bulk of the cleaning work by themselves.
When met while he was washing his front porch, Harun said all their belongings were either damaged or destroyed, and they have been sleeping on a makeshift bed in the house that was still only 75 per cent clean.
Asked about what was needed to prevent a repeat of the floods here, an exasperated Harun said nothing would be done if left to the politicians and authorities.
"Too much bureaucracy when it comes to getting anything done. Plus, the ever-changing representatives and government leaders create so much chaos. Nothing can be done properly.
"In the end, who does work? We need someone to prioritise building bigger drains, fixing the existing clogged up drainage system, have proper irrigation, et cetera. Why can't we just have one big project — a long-term project — where we build a water catchment area or something to that effect to mitigate the floods?" he said.
According to Harun, floods have become a regular occurrence in the area, and could be as frequent as six times a year.
However, none in recent memory has been as severe as the deluge that swept the area late in December.
"Now, it’s gotten worse because it's so muddy. I’m talking about cakes of mud, not dust flakes. When they brought the pumps to suck the water out, they also faced difficulty as the terrain here is undulating. Coupled with the bad drainage, where is the water going to flow out?
"I'll be honest with you, it's been difficult. Whenever it rains for several hours or it's heavy, everyone here is panicking. I don't think I can take it anymore."
Harun speculated that the mud could be from the construction of the Cheras-Ampang highway, saying there could be erosion in the hilly area that was causing mud and silt to enter the waterways.
The last time it flooded badly here, Harun said a lawmaker came and gave him RM350.
This time, however, Harun wondered if it might not have been better to collect the RM350 each for all 2,500 households here and put the full amount to improving drainage in the area.
Disagreeing with some views that the frequent changes in the federal government was an obstacle to proper flood mitigation works, Harun said there were enough agencies and departments to ensure continuity in any such effort.
What was not there, Harun said, was the political will or desire to implement projects that would truly benefit ordinary Malaysians.
During a visit to the area, Malay Mail met with resident Syed Norzain Syed Mohd Yusof, 56, and the latter’s friend, Abdul Latif, 54, who travelled from Pahang to help with the cleanup.
Abdul has been helping out flood victims here by repairing electrical items without charge. So far, he has already fixed around 30 fans, over 10 refrigerators, and several washing machines and television sets.
He said he first came down to help relatives whose house was badly damaged by the floods, but felt compelled to assist others.
Both men agreed too many politicians were fixated with appearing concerned about the flood victims but did not actually help or even visit.
Abdul said he was very happy to see Parti Warisan president Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal come all the way from Sabah to help those affected.
"He came, went house to house and gave us money. He wore boots, got wet and dirty, and walked these streets to meet and greet every single household and give us some help at the same time.
"We saw other MPs and ministers who came and met their friends only, did their photo op or whatever and left. With a large entourage nonetheless," he said with a dry laugh.
"Other big shots came with their grand processions, making a huge deal but they visited the places that aren't that dirty, places that were already clean, and then left.
"So, putting them aside, I hope the people affected by this flooding get more financial aid and I want everyone to be given an equal amount, regardless of race and religion," he said.
While Abdul spoke more of the recovery, Syed was still shaken by the chaos of the deluge and the days immediately after.
With latent anger, he said the authorities were caught unprepared and had acted unreasonably at times, including demanding proof of identification from residents trying to return to their homes to pick up the pieces.
"How was that even possible? People here are scarred now. They can't sleep at night, worried the water levels will creep up on them while they’re sleeping."
Compared to a visit over two weeks ago, Malay Mail found the area to be cleaner and the traffic was lighter. Rubbish collection appeared to still be spotty as piles of uncollected refuse, though fewer now, could still be seen in the area.
Mud remained virtually everywhere, tainting the streets brown and causing the air to be heavy with the unpleasant stench of decomposition, which some residents said was especially strong during hot days.
Standing in the malodorous air while cleaning their house, Amir Hamzah, Mohd Hafiz, and Mohd Ashwath told Malay Mail the entire structure was damaged by floodwaters.
They said they have been stripping both the house and their car bare to see if anything was salvageable.
"Been at this for 24 hours and we still don't know if it'll start," Hafiz said while looking at the vehicle with resignation.
According to Amir, there have been theories why the floods late in December had been so devastating, such as overflows at six rain catchment areas upriver.
When asked who was to blame, a frustrated Amir said he could not say.
"All I know is we're helping each other out here. All races, groups and NGOs. We realise we got to look out for each other. The problem for me now is I have been renting this place with a thought to buy it eventually.
"I'm going to have to rethink that now,” he said.
When approached, few residents were willing to express their views on the level and pace of assistance from the government.
While some appeared to be biting back words, most chose to keep their thoughts to themselves and busied themselves with more cleaning or lending a helping hand to a friend or neighbour in need.
"It was such a relief when I saw the NGOs, local authorities from different states and their leaders come to help us," said workshop owner Mohd Syawal Rizal.
"It was disappointing to note the late arrival for help. Instead, I saw the authorities suddenly start working hard when they caught wind of the prime minister coming," he added.
"They came from Kedah, east coast, even Muar. Thing is, we need money. Look at my car," said Syawal as he pointed to a vehicle so caked in mud and grass that it was difficult to discern its make or model.
"The warranty states that fixing the car will cost around RM40,000 because it’s under warranty and to keep the warranty I must use original replacement parts.
"Other cars without warranty will cost around RM4,000 to RM8,000. Not all mechanics will take the business though. It's too much work, too tedious," said Syawal.
Overall, there was still plenty of work to do to get back to normalcy for the people of Taman Sri Nanding and the clean-up could take months.
Putrajaya and the state government have agreed to provide financial aid for the victims of the flooding from this month onwards.
While none of those interviewed today had yet received this aid, most expressed hope that it would come sooner rather than later but all agreed that none of it would be enough.