Coming together as one during Malaysia’s worst flooding in decades.
When the river levels started rising in the east coast of the peninsula and in the state of Perak last December, there was little concern that the yearly monsoonal rains would result in the worst flooding in decades. But coupled with a supermoon causing higher than normal tides and the strong winds bringing extra moisture from the western Pacific and China, it caused a perfect storm that caught the National Security Council (NSC) disaster preparedness officers on the ground off guard.
The unbridled environmental degradation wrought by land clearing and illegal forest felling activities, especially in Kelantan, was also a major contributor to the floods.
At the height of the floods in late December, entire districts in Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang were submerged in floodwaters that ripped away homes and cars and left thousands homeless and up to 160,000 seeking shelter in aid centres.
NSC officers, too, were stranded in places, and buildings that were supposed to be relief centres found themselves either cut off by floods or even equally ravaged.
But even as this was unfolding, the rest of the peninsula didn’t really understand how bad the situation was. It was only when the dry “XX number evacuated due to floods” reports from Bernama gave way to heart wrenching calls for help on social media from the stranded that things changed.
When someone uploaded the plight of the 180 doctors and nurses at the Kuala Krai Hospital who battled to save lives and treat patients for days without any electricity or water supply on Facebook, the posting soon went viral, jolting Joe Public and corporations into action to help deliver aid to the victims.
Soon, many other eye-witness accounts of the devastation started to filter out, and it soon became apparent that help was needed, and fast. And this time, Malaysians of all persuasions, race and religion stepped forward to do what they could to help.
While some chose to work together with existing aid organisations – whether government agencies or NGOs such as Mercy Malaysia and Red Crescent Society – many decided to form ad hoc volunteer groups to source for essential items, and transport them into the disaster area themselves.
Among the more prominent ones (of probably hundreds, if not thousands of individual efforts), include Syed Azmi Albashi. A pharmacist by profession, he proved that aid efforts do not have to be spearheaded by a VIP to be successful when he organised a donation and delivery drive via Facebook to aid flood victims.
Volunteers commandeered trucks, 4WDs, even helicopters to deliver essential supplies to victims.
Many corporations – large and small – organised donation drives to raise funds to buy supplies and ship them via Malindo, AirAsia or Firefly – all three airlines offered to ferry aid to affected areas.
Large supermarket chains also donated supplies, and countless of smaller mom and pop shops gladly chipped in when approached by those seeking mineral water bottles, blankets, slippers, instant noodles, soap, rice packets, etc.
One of the companies that decided at an early stage to step forward to help the flood relief efforts was Acre Works Sdn Bhd.
According to Acre Works Finance Director Ho Yuet Mee, the team became aware of the scale and magnitude of the disaster on Christmas Day.
With memories of the tsunami (it was the 10th anniversary of the Boxing Day tsunami which killed over 200,000 people) still fresh in their minds, Acre Works Sports and Social Club staff mobilised a team to help organise aid for the victims.
“We collected donations and contributions in kind from office colleagues, site workers, family and friends. The Company also contributed towards the purchase of supplies. There were about 20 people were involved in buying and packing of the supplies. Over the two trips, nine colleagues, including two expat colleagues, went to the flood areas near Gua Musang to deliver the supplies. Another company, a business associate of ours, also joined us during our 2nd trip,” said Ho.
The team sourced for essential food and personal hygiene items, which were then packed and loaded up in the company 4WD vehicles which then headed out to the flood areas.
“Importantly we worked with the local police, who very kindly assigned us a police officer who brought us to the various affected flood areas in Gua Musang,’ she adds.
In total, they delivered about RM7,000 worth of supplies.
Ho says they were moved to do this when they saw the plight of fellow Malaysians caught in such dire circumstances.
“It is lovely however to see this unfortunate episode has brought out the compassion in us Malaysians across all walks of lives,” she adds.
Indeed, it is a pity that it takes a tragedy to make us remember that we are one people, and that petty differences mean little in the larger scheme of things.