The Flood

By Michelle Ng

I write on New Year’s Day, physically exhausted with a cloud over my head after assisting with flood relief work for the past two weeks. Looking back at the year that has been, 2021 was a lot more challenging than 2020. There are, however, silver linings worth recalling.

I recall vividly the day when the sky poured for many hours. I began to flashback to the horrors of 2019 when flash flood occurred in front of IPD Subang Jaya and USJ 14. Rainfall was only 160mm then.

That day, the rain felt like it was beginning to exceed 2019 levels. I quickly contacted with the Deputy Mayor. Now, I was aware that Council had improved the drains along Persiaran Tujuan post-2019 by building weirs. That means rainwater no longer rushed immediately to the lowest lying spot. Instead, each segment fills itself up from top to bottom, much like wedding champagne towers, thus delaying the possibility of floods occurring. Aside from that, the Council also installed a warning system. That night, the Deputy Mayor reported that water levels at the warning system in USJ13 showed that things were under control. The OCPD, USJ3/4 and USJ14’s resident representative also confirmed this to be the case. I was cautiously optimistic. Looking back, I owe my gratitude to the Engineering Department. The upgraded drains withstood the state’s biggest crisis to date. This is surely a job well done!

Later that night, I got a call from Firdaus, Masjid Al-Falah’s Youth Wing Chief. He said that he needed support, as they will be opening the mosque’s doors for victims from Kampung Tengah. ‘Whatever you need, I said’. I then learnt that Masjid Al-Madaniah also did the same.

Further into the night, on Twitter, I got tagged in posts of motorists stuck in LRT Subang Jaya. Many could not return to Shah Alam or Klang. That night, Masjid Darul Ehsan, too, opened their doors.

I immediately began contacting Resident Associations, Rukun Tetanggas of where these mosques were situated, and asked that they provide some support. I also quickly contacted NGOs to provide hot meals for the victims, and texted the State Treasurer to ask for special approval to use my allocation to support these relief centres.

Everything fell in line quickly. The next day, we disbursed the monies to all three mosques, sent over Covid-19 test kits and masks, as health and safety was our priority, brought NGOs to introduce them to mosque committees, and surveyed additional support that the mosque committee required.

When news broke that these three mosques were turned into relief centres, support came pouring in. Most of them did not need hand holding after the first two days of setting up. What was a joy to see was how the three mosques themselves set up communications to share resources. Nothing went to waste. When there was excess, they were quick to contact our office to help them resolve it.

After a few days, one of the NGOs who have been supporting these relief centres contacted me to say that Jabatan Kebajikan Masyarakat had also asked them to provide hot food. By this time, we were well aware that all three flood relief centres had more than enough support.

I called up JKM Subang and said ‘Don’t worry about the three relief centres here, we have enough. Focus on other places in need. We only need your advice as to SOP to ensure that we are properly registering victims, and health wise, they are taken care of’.

I could hear the officer’s sigh of relief. ‘Thank God. I really didn’t know how to pull together enough resources to care for more relief centres’. What I heard in that response was how stretched, understaffed and unsupported our Federal agencies are. These men and women who have sacrificed so much to care for the nation’s welfare deserve better – as policy makers, we’d need to continue to advocate for their needs to decision makers.

When things settled, flood relief work started. Barani, my right-hand man, is managing about 300 volunteers for the Bukit Lanchong area. I am so encouraged to see such selflessness displayed. Many took leave, sacrificed their Christmas and New Year’s Eve, in order to serve. They did not fear back breaking work or handling filth. Now when we enter the village, passer-by-s holler at us and welcomed us with a smile. ‘Baju merah memang menolong’, they said.

All that said and done, I am cautious to not portray false optimism. The help rendered to flood victims thus far barely scratches the surface. My heart sinks when I see the loss on victims’ faces – they do not know where to start rebuilding their lives. Now is the time for benevolence to kick in. There is much need for big ticket items such as kettles, rice cookers, stoves, gas, mattresses, bedding and pillows. Some need help repairing household wiring. Children who would be returning to school need bags, stationery, uniforms and shoes.

We are rallying together initiatives to help meet these needs. I hope that those of us who are able will consider giving in ways that we can – whether by sparing your time volunteering, giving financially, or even spreading the word. Every bit counts to help Selangor rise again.