Flood management in Sarawak — back then and now

Firemen rescuing flood victims. Photo: Bomba

Now, as soon as your house is flooded, rescue teams are dEspatched to help flood victims to evacuate to relief centres (PPS).

– Zarena Abdullah, flood victim

Having to face floods in Sarawak in the 1960s to 1980s cannot be compared with its experience now, according to two flood victims.

Today, they said, almost all needs of those affected are provided by the government through its relevant agencies, but back then, this was not so.

Recently, these individuals who are flood victims in the state shared their experiences with Bernama. They spoke about the progress taken by the state government in its strategy to alleviate the people’s burden in facing this disaster.

One of the victims, Frazer Bedoh, 57, from Kampung Semadang, Padawan, near here said he had experienced floods in the early 1970s.

At that time, whenever it rained heavily, his village was one of the first areas to be inundated due to its location on the river bank.

“Nothing was provided. We had to traverse the strong currents (of Sungai Sarawak Kiri) using our own boats to take us to safety, either to a neighbouring village or a relative’s house that was not affected (by the floods),” he said.

Frazer remembers that at that time no authority came to assist them…and even if there was, it was only to give them a cup of rice (about 600 grammes) and a can of sardines or some salted fish.

“We had to sleep on the floor with paper or plastic (to cover us) without a blanket. Imagine how cold it would have been coupled with the presence of mosquitoes,” he said, recalling the difficulties he faced at the time.

He added that in those days, there was no body like the disaster management committee so victims had to manage their own survival. Even (the elected) people’s representative did not come to help.

Meanwhile Zarena Abdullah, 32, who was not even born when Frazer experienced the floods in the 1970s said, after the same situation that took place in Kuching recently, it shows a major change in the government’s way of managing the flood situation and victims.

She said now, as soon as your house is flooded, rescue teams, consisting of firefighters and rescuers as well as the Malaysian Civil Defence Force (APM) team are despatched to help flood victims to evacuate to relief centres (PPS).

At PPS Dewan Kampung Sinar Budi Baru, Zarena said there are tents for them to sleep in, and meals are supplied three times a day, in addition to donations of various necessities.

Her house has been flooded, so she, her husband and daughter have been relocated to the PPS since Wednesday. She said the situation in the PPS is very comfortable despite noise from people talking, and babies and children crying.

“The food supply is also adequate with breakfast, lunch and dinner provided by the Social Welfare Department. We also get assistance such as bread, instant noodles, Milo, drinking water and toiletries,” said Zarena, who is facing a flood disaster for the first time.

Although the APM strictly monitors the standard operating procedures to avoid any possible transmission of the Covid-19 virus among flood victims, Zarena is satisfied with the facilities provided.

“The experience of being here (PPS) is not very bad because all the necessities are provided adequately. It’s just that we are not provided with mattresses and pillows, but the tents are quite spacious and can accommodate four people,” she told Bernama.