PETALING JAYA: It was far from being home sweet home, but the many flood victims huddled at the various relief centres say they are grateful to live to see another day.
While the perception is that most of these relief centres might be poorly run and lack supplies, several families said the opposite was true.
Among them were Asfalela Kasim, 55, who said she was impressed with the way things were organised at the religious school near her inundated area in Klang.
“Upon arriving, we were stationed at the main prayer hall which had mats prepared for us to rest.
“The hall was clean while the school staff members, cleaners, volunteers and others at the relief centre were courteous and made sure the place was comfortable for us,” she said.
The pensioner said everything from food distribution to the sleeping arrangement and distribution of necessities was well managed.
“We were well cared for throughout our three nights there,” said Asfalela, who was there with five other family members.
The family had gone there after being evacuated at about 2pm on Dec 18 when the floods hit. They found out later that the number of evacuees at that centre had risen to about 700 people.
“Much to our surprise, the washroom was relatively clean despite the large number of victims. There were queues at times,” she recalled.
Asfalela, however, described bedtime as “rather uneasy”.
“The first night was cold but the next day, we got blankets, towels and toiletries,” she said.
Asfalela added that the shouts and screams of children playing till late kept most of the evacuees awake.
Throughout her stay at the relief centre, Asfalela said countless numbers of volunteers came over to provide assistance.
As for food, she said it was readily available throughout the day.
“We had three scheduled meals daily but there was also cooking done at the relief centre so there was an endless supply of food,” she said, adding that the family cat which was rescued together with them was kept in a carrier throughout their time there.
She said swab tests were also conducted on those with Covid-19 symptoms. “Thankfully, no one tested positive,” she said, adding that she tried her best to observe physical distancing despite the lack of space.
Couple Hamid Ajid, 79, and Sabar Mapiah, 77, said they decided to move out of their home to a temporary relief centre in Kuala Selangor at about 4pm on Dec 21 when the water level rose.
They ended up at the Kuala Selangor indoor stadium where they stayed for about a week.
“With every passing day, the number of families increased, reaching a peak of about 113. But everything was well organised,” said Hamid.
He said that for the first seven days, they slept on carpets.
“The tents came much later. There were not enough beds so those were given to the sick and the elderly,” he said.
Sabar said there was a set routine to follow daily. “Every morning, the residents would have their communal prayers and later in the day, the men would return to their homes to monitor the situation.
“There were also talks given by NGOs, volunteer groups and government agencies on flood safety, Covid-19 procedures and scheduled assistance,” she said.
Sabar added that there was ample food and drinks, and plenty of clothing prepared for those who arrived with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
Another evacuee, who only wanted to be known as Ahmad, was not so lucky, describing his time at the flood relief centre as “the most uncomfortable six hours of my life”.
“Twelve of us (family members) were in Taman Sri Muda for a wedding on Dec 18. With the rain not showing any signs of abating and with the water level rising fast, we decided to take refuge at a carwash centre located on a hill.
“At close to 6am the next day, a rescue boat came and said that we needed to be moved out of the area as soon as possible because the hill was next to the Klang River.”
He said the boat journey took about 45 minutes.
“Upon reaching it, I was shocked to see the condition of the centre.
“We were placed at a school in Kota Kemuning. Its hall was converted into a relief centre with nothing prepared for us,” said Ahmad, a media executive.
He said that with electricity cut off, the area was in complete darkness.
“We just sat there drenched. As my wife was the first batch to arrive, she had some food to eat but when the others and I arrived, we were told that food had run out.
“It was shocking as there were no beds or tents for the vulnerable groups to rest. Everyone was told to just rest on the cold hard ground.
“I was especially worried for my pregnant wife and elderly uncle,” he said.
Ahmad added that the toilets were a mess with the floor covered in mud and a long line of people waiting to use it.
“There was a rescued individual who came on a stretcher and looked sickly. He was just laid on the floor with no one attending to him.
“There were also many others who came in with cuts and bruises and the elderly who came without their medication,” he said.
At about 10am that day, he asked a volunteer whether there was a way to leave, and was told that there was a back road which was only accessible by a four-wheel drive. Ahmad called his father to pick them and they left at about 2pm.