Over 115,000 evacuated in worsening floods
By Agence France-Presse
15 January 2007 - Over 115,000 people have been forced to flee their homes as floods worsen in the south and on Borneo island, officials said today as relief workers struggled to feed and shelter victims.
The national flood operations centre said the situation was expected to deteriorate in the worst-hit state of Johor in south, where nearly 110,000 have abandoned their homes.
"We expect it to get worse ... I think there will be more relief centres opened," an official told AFP, adding that 343 evacuation centres were currently operational.
Rains have also forced the evacuation of some 2,500 people in central Pahang state and more than 4,260 in Sabah state on Borneo island, he said.
Eighteen people have been killed so far in two rounds of floods that started last month, which officials say are the worst Johor has seen in a century.
Health officials have warned of the risk of disease, particularly leptospirosis, which is spread by animal urine, after a report that two evacuees had died of the disease.
Non-government organisation, Mercy Malaysia, said it was distributing hygiene kits and water purification sachets in cooperation with UNICEF.
"If food is not prepared with safe water, then diarrhoea sets in and that's why we are very concerned," Mercy Malaysia's chief operating officer, Shareen Abdul Ghani, told AFP.
Relief agencies have launched appeals for food and relief supplies, volunteers and even boats.
Reports Monday said some shelters in Johor were bursting at the seams, while at least one centre in the area of Sri Medan said it was rationing food supplies.
Shareen said some centres were overwhelmed and called for better government coordination of the relief efforts.
"The information is fine, but in terms of how to channel aid ... there must be leadership on the ground," she said.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has also ordered more police to be deployed in Johor, and authorities said that 1,500 would be drafted in to assist in relief efforts and to prevent looting.
"There are complaints that burglars are breaking into homes that have been evacuated. This is a despicable act," Abdullah was quoted as saying in the New Straits Times on Monday.
Flood Operation Centres
Tel: (+6.03) 4256 9999