Malaysiakini Special Report

‘Starting all over again’: The burden of surviving floods

Zikri Kamarulzaman  |  Published:  |  Modified:

SPECIAL REPORT | On a sunny Thursday afternoon, Penangites residing in Taman Free School set about cleaning up their homes and shops in the wake of devastating floods that had occurred days before.

Mattresses, cushions, and wooden furniture lined the streets, waiting to be collected and sent to a landfill by Penang Island City Council (MBPP) workers.

Like many Penangites, the residents had had thousands of ringgit worth of belongings, including their cars, and electrical appliances, damaged or destroyed in the deluge that hit Penang on the weekend of Nov 4.

But for some, the damage had gone beyond the loss of property.

Lim Eng Heong, 65, shuffled about her shop at the Taman Free School flats which sells Chinese prayer items, browsing through her inventory to look for goods damaged by the flood waters.

One of the items was a box of paper offerings, which she chucked onto a growing pile of damaged goods outside her shop.

"That's money. I am throwing away money," Lim told Malaysiakini, a wry smile flashing across her weary face.

"Take a look at all my things, these are all ilek pochek (gone to nothing in Tamil)," she said, waving her hands over boxes of joss sticks.

She added that two piles of goods had already been cleared earlier in the day by Rela volunteers.

Lim was just one of many Penangites whose livelihoods had been adversely disrupted by the floods.

The shopkeeper did not know how to estimate the losses she had suffered, saying she was "going crazy" thinking about it.

None of her losses will be covered by insurance, as neither her shop nor her home are insured.

A double whammy

Across the Penang Strait in Bukit Mertajam on the mainland, entrepreneur couple Hamizah Che Amat, 46, and Amizudin Ahmat, 48, made their way through their kitchen, which on Wednesday was still filled with ankle-deep water.

Resigned to fate, Hamizah spoke with a tired smile about how the ingredients she used to make cakes and cookies had all been spoiled by the flood waters.

"I can't even bake, the oven doesn't work anymore," she casually added.

In the back room of their house were piles of political party flags Amizudin had printed in 2013, including rolls of old DAP flags which they had recently cleared from storage to sell, but were now unusable as the colour had started to run.

For Hamizah and Amizudin, the Nov 4 flood was a double whammy, as their house had also been hit by floods earlier on Sept 15.

"We haven't even gotten the RM400 aid from the Penang state government yet (for the September flood)," Amizudin said.

The PKR candidate for the Bayan Lepas state seat in 2004 said that while he understood that processing the aid application would take time, he was concerned that people would get angry at the state government for the perceived delay.

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng had announced that each family hit by this month's floods would get RM500 in cash aid.

However, it is a pittance compared to the damages and lost income suffered by many.

Saving what he can

Even heroes such as Taman Free School's Sapno Tukijo had not been spared from the hardships that follow after a flood...

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