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Last updateWed, 11 Nov 2015 11am

Tuesday, 20 January 2015 10:11

Flood in Kuching

Written by  Tan Pui Lee, Kuching / Translated by Chang Hong Hee

Volunteers provided comfort to victims of young and old housed in a small area at the evacuation centre. [Photograph by Tan Pui Lee]

For five continuous days from January 14, 2015, rain had fallen incessantly in Kuching City and its surrounding areas in Sarawak State. The flood that resulted had reached a critical level submerging roads, drains, paddy or grass fields, as well as, most of the low-lying areas.


 
The existing irrigation and drainage system in Kuching could not cope with the onslaught of non-stop rainfall that coincided with the high tide. Hence, an unavoidable flood situation occurred, creating havoc for the general public’s normal lifestyle, particularly during the peak hour traffic when ferrying children to and from schools; and for workers rushing to and from work.
 
On January 18, after the end of Tzu Chi Kuching’s Year-end Blessing Ceremony for care recipients, volunteer Lai Yoke Foong, the person-in-charge, urgently mobilized volunteers to discuss the possible solutions for coping with any lightning flood. At the same time, Tzu Chi staff, Chai Pian Chun contacted the relative government agencies and private social bodies to gather information on the flood.
 
Initial visit to flood-stricken areas
 
At 8 pm on January 18, 13 volunteers, divided into two teams, activated the first flood visit operation and headed in two directions to the affected areas, namely, Batu Kawa and Batu Kitang, to assess the actual situations at the various evacuation centres concerned. At the same time, they interacted with victims to deliver care and comfort.
 
Two units of new shophouses located under the bridge in the Batu Kawa region, were also utilized as an evacuation centre for flood victims mostly from the Rantau Panjang area, which is close to the riverside. Upon their arrival, volunteers found that some flood victims were already seeking shelter at the centre; and they also found the centre in need of a clean-up. They immediately mobilized manpower to sweep and tidy up the premises in readiness to welcome additional flood victims. Besides caring for the flood victims, volunteers also assisted government social welfare staff to unload from trucks items like mineral water, mats, and so on.
 
The other team of volunteers reached the Batu Kitang Community Hall (a temporary evacuation centre), and found that there were 23 families (or 97 victims) at the centre. Out of these, 11 families (or 55 victims) had to sleep overnight in the hall. Luckily, all victims had with them their basic usable items and effects for lodging. What the volunteers did, first and foremost, was to comfort the victims.
 
New flood relief direction
 
By the morning of January 19, the Sarawak State Government had already opened up 14 flood evacuation centres. At that stage, there were 506 affected families; and the seriously affected areas included Kampung Beratok, Batu Kawa and Batu Kitang areas. Kuching volunteers had twice collected flood area information, and contacted KL & Selangor Branch via video-conferencing to discuss on how to proceed further and the right actions to be taken.
 
Volunteers from KL & Selangor also shared their earlier West Malaysia flood experiences with their Kuching counterparts and reminded Kuching’s flood visit team to ensure they obtain a better understanding of the various flood-affected areas; the overall picture of the flood situation; all formation pertaining to the resources supplied by the government and social bodies to avoid duplication of supplies and manpower; and the post-flood home cleaning and re-building.
 
The second flood visit was separated into three teams to assist and provide help to cover a wider area of the flood-affected areas. For the first time, volunteers reached the Kampung Beratok evacuation centre, located about 22 km away from Kuching City. There were 267 families (or 1,026 victims), including pregnant women and old folks.
 
The Social Welfare Department offered medical services, hot food and drinks, and so on. As this centre is situated at a hilly region, majority of the victims felt cold despite the thin blankets and floor mats handed to them by the welfare authority. Volunteers also learnt that most of the evacuees were aborigines; and the waist or knee high water level had submerged most of their crops.
 
Volunteers also visited other evacuation centres and found that the number of flood victims were increasing. They also noted that the 108 victims from Rantau Panjang area, who gathered at Batu Kawa Min Lit Secondary School evacuation centre, had sufficient usable items but found it difficult to have three meals a day. Thus, ten volunteers were mobilized to prepare food for delivery to the centre. That very night the victims were served hot packed food.
 
“Other than the instant noodles for breakfast, this is the first bowl of cooked rice I have eaten. I really thank all Tzu Chi volunteers!” Victim Song Qing Li exclaimed and expressed helplessly that they only had a small amount of dried food for lunch to fill their stomachs; and some small kids also felt hungry and uncomfortable. She also thanked volunteers for their care extended to them at night, despite rain and wind, as well as, supplying dinner for all.
 
Continuous care and support
 
Following the last two days’ of continuous care and flood visit exercise, 17 volunteers departed at noon for a return visit to three evacuation centres and the neighbouring flood areas after their January 20 morning meeting. Divided into five teams, they conducted another assessment of the current disaster situation.
 
One of these teams handed out dried food to victims at Min Lit Secondary School hall and Stapok Benevolent Society’s hall; while another two teams proceeded to areas they had not visited and where no evacuation centres had been set up. They also carried out an assessment of the whole flood situation in Kuching suburban areas. Five teams of volunteers were divided into batches to visit 30% of Kuching’s flood affected areas and to provide care to the victims housed in nine evacuation centres.
 
Each team of volunteers arrived at Tzu Chi Kuching at 5 pm, to attend a general meeting where each team presented their report. They informed that the water level in most of the affected areas had receded and the majority of the evacuees had returned home to clean up their own premises.
 
Volunteers have also learnt through the process that the victims had shown their spirit of good neighbourhood by interacting and caring for each other. The meeting also decided that going forward, a third batch of Tzu Chi volunteers would carry out post-flood care to those areas covered by mud and where the water level had receded.
 
For the three continuous days of flood visit and care, and despite the wind and rain, Tzu Chi had mobilized 57 turnouts of volunteer manpower to provide flood relief persistently in a day-and-night relay manner. Volunteers prayed sincerely and wholeheartedly for the merciless rain to stop so that everyone could safely pass through this sudden flood disaster.
 
 
One of the teams of volunteers had used an alternative road to reach SK St. Peter evacuation centre on January 19. [Photograph by Tan Pui Lee]   On the first visit, volunteers arrived at the evacuation centre after dark which had housed 11 families from Batu Kitang. [Photograph by Lee Nan Chin]

One of the teams of volunteers had used an alternative road to reach SK St. Peter evacuation centre on January 19. [Photograph by Tan Pui Lee]
 
On the first visit, volunteers arrived at the evacuation centre after dark which had housed 11 families from Batu Kitang. [Photograph by Lee Nan Chin]
 
During the first survey, a team of volunteers found that the temporary shelter at Batu Kawa shophouse was in need of a clean-up, hence immediately mobilized manpower to tidy up the premises. [Photograph by Sim Teck Ane]   Around 267 families from Kampung Beratok were housed at evacuation centre in cramped conditions. [Photograph by Tan Pui Lee]

During the first survey, a team of volunteers found that the temporary shelter at Batu Kawa shophouse was in need of a clean-up, hence immediately mobilized manpower to tidy up the premises. [Photograph by Sim Teck Ane]
 
 
Around 267 families from Kampung Beratok were housed at evacuation centre in cramped conditions. [Photograph by Tan Pui Lee]
 
Through video-conferencing, Kuching volunteers provided updates to KL & Selangor Branch and discussed on the right actions to be taken. [Photograph by Tan Pui Lee]   Volunteers were seen preparing 108 hot packed food for delivery to Min Lit Secondary School evacuation centre. [Photograph by Tan Pui Lee]

Through video-conferencing, Kuching volunteers provided updates to KL & Selangor Branch and discussed on the right actions to be taken. [Photograph by Tan Pui Lee]
 
 
Volunteers were seen preparing 108 hot packed food for delivery to Min Lit Secondary School evacuation centre. [Photograph by Tan Pui Lee]
 
In the second round of flood relief, volunteers visited 86 families (or 173 victims) at Stapok Benevolent Society’s hall. [Photograph by Tan Pui Lee]   A mother was grateful with the hot meals from Tzu Chi as it helped soothe her crying daughter (in pink). [Photograph by Tan Pui Lee]

In the second round of flood relief, volunteers visited 86 families (or 173 victims) at Stapok Benevolent Society’s hall. [Photograph by Tan Pui Lee]
 
 
A mother was grateful with the hot meals from Tzu Chi as it helped soothe her crying daughter (in pink). [Photograph by Tan Pui Lee]