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COMMENT | Malaysians were caught by surprise by the torrential downpour, caused by Tropical Depression 29W, throughout the peninsula for three days from Dec 17 which continued until Dec 19.

It resulted in a peak daily rainfall of 363mm, equivalent to a month's worth of rainfall in the region worst affected, Selangor.

Klang and Shah Alam in Selangor were the most affected areas. Some areas in the state of Pahang too were ravaged by the floods.

As of Dec 27, 48 persons perished due to these floods and five are still missing.

This deadliest tropical cyclone-related disaster to hit Malaysia demonstrated the nation was ill-prepared to respond to this crisis.

Global warming linked to extreme weather including worsening floods was among the factors attributed to this climate crisis.

Furthermore, with the mass movement of people, there were fears of Covid-19 cases and deaths escalating.

Public fury

There were videos of many stranded on rooftops, suffering from cold and hunger, with no immediate rescue from relevant government agencies. Those stranded were offered help and support by caring fellow citizens and NGOs.

This sparked the public’s anger at the role and response of the government to and during this crisis.

Among key issues raised included no early warning of the torrential rain as well as the uncoordinated and slow response in rescue and relief efforts by the relevant authorities.

Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob explained that rescue teams had difficulties getting into Taman Sri Muda as floodwaters rose rapidly and were unable to carry out their work as roads were also blocked by stranded vehicles.

Additionally, the premier said rescue teams faced problems initially responding to victims stranded on rooftops as they could not see the addresses as the road signs had been submerged.

As it is globally recognised that the probability of finding survivors is highest within the immediate 72 hours following a disaster, the slow rescue and relief efforts caused grave concerns that the death toll and damage to properties would further escalate.

As floods become more severe and more frequent, governments and authorities across multiple levels of government - district, state, and national - must...

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