More than 1,60,000 flee homes across Malaysia

Five die while power outages and inundated roads hamper rescue operations in the country’s worst flood in 10 years

Kota Bharu (Malaysia): The government has come under fire for not declaring a state of emergency to help devastated communities as Malaysia prepares to face heavier weather.

Five people have been declared dead and forecasters have predicted further heavy rainfall across previously unaffected southern parts of the country.

Houses submerged in floodwaters in Pengkalan Chepa, near Kota Bharu. PIC/AFP
Malaysian PM criticised for golfing in US in time of calamity

Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak called on rescue workers desperately trying to reach flood victims to step up their efforts to deliver food and water.

But Razak came under fire after photos showed him golfing in Hawaii with United States president Barack Obama during the storms.
Malaysians used his official Facebook page to question why he was not at home to deal with the crisis.

“The PM needs time to take a break. He has been working very hard so let’s be fair to him as a human being. Don’t worry, I’m in charge,” deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin said.

Yassin also insisted the government had responded appropriately to the flooding. “We face floods every year but this is looking to be the worst the country has seen in the last 30 years,” he said.

“Unless there was a total breakdown in electricity or water supply, or if the number of evacuees rises to over hundreds of thousands, we will not declare a state of emergency,” he added.

Razak later decided to cut short his usual year-end vacation and return to Malaysia to oversee rescue operations. He is expected to land in Kelantan, one of the worst-hit states, and meet people affected by the crisis as well as discuss new measures with authorities to help flood victims. “I am deeply concerned by the floods. I feel for the people who have lost their homes, and the families who have lost loved ones. I want to see the situation for myself and be with the people,” the prime minister said in a statement.

The Malaysian Meteorological Department warned of a heavy downpour over the next few days in parts of the country that have so far been spared the worst of the flooding, including the southern state of Johor, which neighbours Singapore.

Among the dead was a man who drowned at a relief centre on Christmas Eve, while a rescue boat carrying eight people, including a young couple, went missing after it got trapped in a whirlpool and capsised.

Seasonal flooding hits Malaysia every year and regularly forces tens of thousands from their homes, but the latest floods are the worst seen in the country since 2004.

Authorities ordered the evacuation of areas mostly in Malaysia’s north-east, affecting an estimated 1,18,000 people. About 100 tourists stranded in the remote Mutiara Taman Negara Resort in central Malaysia were rescued and sent to a relief centre. Rising flood water rendered several roads unusable and authorities have suspended train services in some of the worst-affected areas. Communications systems were also badly hit by the storms.

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