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A flooded road in Batu Berendam in Malaysia's southern coastal state of Malacca. A flooded road in Batu Berendam in Malaysia's southern coastal state of Malacca.  (AFP or licensors)

Malaysia reels under unprecedented floods

As unprecedented heavy rains inundate half of Malaysia's states, the Catholic Church joins government agencies in bringing aid to affected people.

By Robin Gomes

With 7 of Malaysia’s 13 states hit by floods, the south-east Asian nation is in a state of crisis. Thousands of people have been evacuated, taking the total affected by 2 weeks of heavy rain to over 125,000, the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) said.

Seven states hit

The states of Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Johor, Malacca, Negeri Sembilan and Sabah were still affected by floods, and more that 8,700 people were taking shelter at 128 relief centres, Reuters said citing NDMA.  A total of 125,490 people have been affected by the floods nationwide, of whom 117,700 evacuees have returned home.

Floods are common on the eastern coast of Malaysia during the annual monsoon season between October and March, but authorities have been taken by surprise by unusually heavy rainfall that began on December 17, causing rivers to overflow and flooding cities. Malaysia's richest state of Selangor - the country's commercial hub - has been among the worst-hit.

Fifty people have died in the floods, and two remain missing, according to a police post on social media on Saturday.

Bad weather until Dec 4

The Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia) has issued an orange level bad weather warning with continuous heavy rain for Pahang and Johor states until Tuesday.  The NDMA announced on Monday that 2 districts in Pahang and Johor are involved in this warning. Meanwhile, a yellow level continuous rain warning was issued for 10 districts in 3 states. The Department of Irrigation and Drainage also issued a warning of high tides between Jan. 2-5, cautioning residents on the west coast of the peninsula.

The Malaysian government said it will provide 1.4 billion ringgit ($336.22 million) in cash aid and other forms of relief for those hit by severe flooding this month.  It is also seeking $3 million from the United Nations Green Climate Fund to develop a national plan to adapt to climate change.

Catholic Church reaches out

The Catholic Church of Malaysia has also invited donations for relief work. 

Caritas Malaysia, the social and development arm of the Church, has been tasked to raise funds, urging donations to its relief fund by January 22. The Church said the funds will be used to buy food and supplies, provide temporary shelters, and help the victims rebuild their lives.

Parish units in action

When the Parish Integral Human Development Ministry (PIHDM) of Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Klang, Selangor state, was preparing the monthly food rations for the poor ahead of Christmas, it was overwhelmed by the flood, inundating thousands of homes and properties. 

Under the leadership of Father Frederick Joseph, the parish church immediately became the focal point of flood relief efforts. Ordinary people from all backgrounds and religious affiliations, Catholic organizations, inter-religious groups, associations and corporate bodies, were prompt in assisting in whatever way possible.

A Muslim group even sent Christmas gifts to cheer children traumatized by the floods. The parish’s Ave Maria Soup Kitchen is preparing hot meals for victims in the affected areas.

Similar outreach drives have kicked into action in the affected areas in Selangor, including in the Holy Family Church in Kajang and St John’s Cathedral in Kuala Lumpur, the Assumption Church in Petaling Jaya and the Church of Our Lady Fatima in Brickfield, which was submerged under a meter of floodwater a week before Christmas. 

Fatima parish priest Father Clarence Devadass noted that Malaysians, in general, are generous, but the recent floods have greatly highlighted this quality.

03 January 2022, 14:34