Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Fearing another wet spell, family in Bau to stay put at relief centre

With three days of relatively fine weather and water receding in Sarawak's flood-hit areas, the clean up and repair of damaged homes, schools, community halls, suraus, temples and shophouses have begun. As of midnight, only 1,523 people, all in the Serian district some 66km from Kuching, were still at seven relief centres. While thousands were relieved to return home after the latest devastation, this was not the case for a family of 15 from Kampung Batu Kitang Raya in Bau. Not only did they fear that another spell of continuous rain could force them back to the community hall which had been their "home" since Saturday, their single storey semi-concrete house was also in no condition for them to return to. "I don't know how we are going to sleep in the house. Not on the wet floor. "We only have a few bamboo floor mats and there are so many of us," said Anita Kasim when met at the relief centre yesterday. The 42-year-old lives with her husband, 12 children, aged between five and 25, and three grandchildren. Adding to her misery, her seven-year-old son, three-year-old granddaughter and herself had been ill since they were forced out of their home last Saturday. "I don't think it is safe to return home just yet. What if it rains heavily again?" Anita has every reason to be wary with the dark overcast sky looming overhead and the king tide cycle expected only to end this coming Saturday. Despite the relief centre, where she and her family had taken shelter was officially closed yesterday, they continued to stay on until they could get their house in order. With such a big family and allocated with only one tent, Anita said the younger children slept inside the tent for the past four nights while the rest slept in the open on the floor. Unlike other neighbours, particularly those with double-storey houses, Anita said their single-storey home was "almost completely damaged" in the second flood to hit the village this year. Anita said when she saw the water from the Sarawak river rose ominously after several hours of heavy rain, she immediately called her husband who works as a factory worker to return home to move things in the house. "This is just too much. Hopefully, we can make some money and build another house on higher ground," she told The Malaysian Insider. Kampung Batu Kitang Raya is located in one of the flood prone areas. It has been in the news in all of the state's big floods in the last decade. This year, 51 of the 61 homes in the village were under water, forcing 295 flood victims to spend their nights at the community centre. "This frequent flood is so tiring," seven-month pregnant Rohani Mohd Sa'at said as she and her two children, aged three and eight, were waiting for her husband to return to whatever was left of their home. "Yes, we are prepared, but so what? This is just so sad, we can't be living like this all our live," said the clerk who aggravated her back moving things to the first floor of their house. Village chief Lili Bakeri said the kampung would be flooded after just three hours of heavy rain and claimed that "everybody knew exactly what to do". While some villagers blamed the poor drainage system, some hoping to move to higher ground, the village community security head Suhaili Solek said the only way for the kampung  to move forward was to become more "flood-friendly". "There is no new land for so many of us to move to. Even other villages far from the river were also flooded. There is no escape. We can only learn to adapt," he said. He said villagers could, for example, build flood-friendly houses, such as double or triple storey houses, put all valuables at higher ground and stay safe during flood. Suhaili said he hoped the public or non-governmental organisations could assist them by donating building materials so the villagers could build better "flood-friendly houses" on a "gotong-royong" basis. – February 25, 2016.]]>

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