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48 hours of hunger and desperation drive Sri Muda folks to the limit

Taman Sri Muda in Shah Alam, Selangor, is one of the worst-hit neighbourhoods following massive flooding in the Klang Valley over the weekend.

Residents only managed to trickle out of the area this morning, when floodwaters began to recede. Many spoke of desperation and hunger faced by thousands who have been stuck in their homes since Saturday.

"When boats pass, people will be screaming 'Food! Food!' from their homes," recounted Siti Ramlah, 31, one of the lucky few to be reached by rescue workers.

Siti and her family are among hundreds of people that rescue workers have dropped off at the bridge as of noon today.

"There are more (who are stuck). Too many," said Siti, who was struggling to contain her emotions when speaking to KiniTV.

According to several witnesses, flooding began on Saturday morning. By the afternoon, floodwaters was as high as car roofs, forcing many to flee to higher ground.

Those who left for work in the morning could not return home that weekend.

Siti Ramlah and her family

What struck the flood victims the most was hunger. "Everyone was hungry," said Siti.

Civilian boats with supplies only arrived yesterday, but according to Siti, they were uncoordinated and it caused problems for distribution of the supplies.

"No matter how many boats come in, there is not enough food. When I was rescued, we saw people breaking into a 99 Speedmart. People were grabbing food because they were hungry," she said.

Civilian rescuers reached earlier

Today, uniformed rescue workers from all over the country were spotted in the vicinity, giving priority to ferrying out victims with frail family members and families with children.

Some residents, such as Thinesh, 29, who could not wait to be rescued had either swam or waded out to reach rescue workers to organise a boat for his grandmother, aged 78.

"I was here for four hours (before a boat could attend to us)," Thinesh said.

Thinesh helping his grandmother out of the flood area

Siti Hajar, 29, said she was angry but believed rescue workers were trying their best.

"People have to be patient. All the supplies are stuck here (on the bridge). It is heartbreaking. Old people are trapped and have to sit on the roof to attract helicopters," she said.

Numerous witnesses said the tragedy had also brought out the best in people, as many civilians tried to join the rescue and relief efforts.

"I saw someone in a plastic container and he was paddling it. He was trying to save people and also, looking for food. It is dangerous, but we had no choice. Supplies weren't coming," he said.

Siti Hajar's husband, Marzan, 28, noted that civilians were initially more active in the rescue efforts.

"Civilians came with supplies even before the government authorities. Everyone was hungry and there was no electricity," Marzan said.

Siti Hajar with her husband Marzan and children

No communications

Jaibon, 29, said he and several others swam to the Taman Sri Muda bridge early this morning because they heard rumours that there were supplies that they could bring back.

There are eight people living in his flat, whom he had to feed. However, Jaibon said when he arrived there was nothing. Now, he could not make his way back because rescue workers won't let him.

"I don't have a plan right now. I just have to wait for the floodwaters to recede. I've lost contact with everyone," he said.


Like Jaibon, Ravichandran, 50, related how the loss of telecommunication services had actually made rescue work more complicated.

"My family will survive. Now we're worried about others. In my neighbourhood, there are bedridden people, people who survived strokes.

"The worst part is the disruption in telephone services and with the electric power cut off. How can they communicate with the people outside? At the time, we don't even know what's happening outside.

"Friends and family wanted to help us, but communications were cut off," said Ravichandran, who waded out of the flood with his family.

Loss of telecommunication services made rescue work more complicated, says Ravichandran

He believes that not all the rescue workers present are voluntary workers.

"(These boatmen) ignored shouts for help... Perhaps they were hired to take care of certain families," he said.

Ravichandran said he and his family plan to stay in the hotel for a while.

"No choice. We don't want to burden other people," he said.

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