Floods: Ministry creates special squad to assist victims

KOTA TINGGI – The Women, Family and Community Development Ministry (KPWKM), through the Social Welfare Department, has created “Skuad Prihatin Negara (SPN)”, a special squad tasked with helping those affected by floods.

The ministry’s deputy secretary-general (Operations) Mohd Yusri Mohd Yusoff said the volunteer and welfare squad would comprise individuals from the ministry, non-governmental organisations, companies and the general public.

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He said the squad’s creation reflected the government’s concern on issues and problems of the people and would implement social and humanitarian work in line with providing aid to the people at the grassroots.

“On understanding the current needs of our country in facing floods which have affected the daily lives of some Malaysians, the ministry has taken the initiative to create SPN in its efforts to help those affected by the floods and also during the post-flood period.

“As a start, SPN volunteers, including ministry employees themselves will assist affected communities in Kota Tinggi district,” he said in a statement here today. —

Yusri said the squad will provide community-based services that are more people-friendly and practical to those in need.

He added that the squad is scheduled to be launched by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin during the launch of Kembara Prihatin Negara on Jan 15 in Pagoh.

“It is hoped that the implementation of this programme would help alleviate the burden of flood victims in addition to inculcating the spirit of cooperation and helping one another among our communities,” he said.

Those interested to become SPN volunteers can contact their nearest district social welfare office.

Preparing for the worst

Continuous heavy rain since last night meanwhile caused several areas in this district and Johor Baru to be flooded again, people hardly had the time to recover from the floods that hit the state a week ago on Jan 2.

Residents and traders in the city centre started packing and putting their valuables in safe places fearing a second wave of floods due to the continuous heavy rain since this morning.

At Kota Tinggi Bridge, a check found that the river was flowing very fast and the water level was very high due to the heavy downpour, and firemen and personnel from other agencies were also seen patrolling around the bridge, housing estates and at nearby villages.

A resident of Taman Kemang, Afizah Yunos, 50, said all the items that were still safe such as electrical appliances were placed back on the second floor of her house.

“We can only pray that there will be no second wave of floods because the flood this time is unpredictable, the water rises too fast,” said Afizah, who returned home three days after the flood last Saturday.

Food stall operator Radin Haslinah Radin Othman, 53, who had just resumed business today after her stall was flooded last Saturday, said this time she had made initial preparations and would transfer raw materials and costly items if water starts entering the stall.

“If it rains heavily and continues like this, I will take the goods from the shop back with me because before this I did not have time to save the goods, especially the newly purchased raw materials,” she said.

Rising waters

A check in several areas in Johor Baru including Kampung Laut Batu 10 and Kampung Paya, which was badly hit by floods last week, found that all the villagers had moved from their homes either to relatives houses or to evacuation centres.

Malik Yahya, a resident of Kampung Paya, Bukit Mutiara here, said he was still cleaning his house which had been inundated when the water started rising again this morning.

“The water started rising from 9 am due to continuous heavy rain since last night. I immediately saved the important documents first,” the father of three said when met in Kampung Paya, here today.

Another resident who wanted to be known as Khadijah in her 30s said: “We were in the midst of cleaning and washing clothes after the flood, but suddenly it came back. It’s sad but what can we do?”

As of 4 pm, the number of flood victims in the state had increased to 1,251 people from 382 families compared to 479 people from 128 families recorded at 8 am today. The affected districts are Kota Tinggi, Johor Bahru, Mersing and Segamat.

SOP compliance high

Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob in a related development has said that no COVID-19 cases have been detected so far at flood relief centres nationwide.

He said it was important to ensure that standard operating procedures (SOP) were adhered to at the relief centres to prevent the infection from spreading.

“I see that the entry controls to the relief centres such as temperature screening and the use of face masks are being complied with. The only thing that worries me is the physical distancing, if there are too many (people in a centre).

“In the aspect of food preparation, I also found that there is no gotong-royong for cooking being carried out at the relief centres that I visited, with only a few people appointed to cook as set by the SOP,” he told reporters after visiting the relief centre at SK Bukit Mentok here, today.

In the meantime, Ismail Sabri said non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that intend to deliver aid to flooded areas should first contact the respective District Flood Management Centres.

“By contacting the management centre, the first thing we can know is the names of those involved in the delivery of goods, so that if anything happens, we know who is involved.

“The second is in terms of the distribution of goods, so we can coordinate where the goods should be sent. We do not want the NGOs to go to the areas on their own, which could result in some areas getting too much, some less, and some receiving nothing at all,” he said.

He said NGO members coming from red zones were also advised to be screened for COVID-19 before sending any assistance to the relief centres involved.

Earlier, Ismail Sabri handed over goods donated by the Ministry of Defence to victims at the SK Bukit Mentok flood relief centre.