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Fear and anxiety as people in Malaysia brace themselves for more floods

KUALA LUMPUR - When non-stop rain battered parts of Malaysia over the weekend, 40-year-old engineer Faizal Mohamad, who lives in Kuala Lumpur, rushed to his parents' house in Melaka to check on them as they live next to the Melaka River.

"We moved my parents to my sister's house, in case the river level rises due to the constant rain. We also stacked all the furniture and bought bricks to build a wall to stop water from coming inside the house," Mr Faizal told The Straits Times.

His parents have seen floods before, the last being in 2017, when their home was inundated with water almost up to knee-level.

Treacherous floods over the past two weeks in the country have led to fear and anxiety among many of those living in areas hit by torrential rain.

They are preparing for the worst, as more than 14,000 people had been displaced across six states - Johor, Melaka, Selangor, Pahang, Negeri Sembilan and Sabah - as at Monday (Jan 3), compared with 8,727 on Sunday.

In Johor alone, more than 4,700 people have been displaced from their homes. Several districts in the state, including Segamat, have been inundated.

A video of firefighters rescuing a motorcyclist in fast-moving flood waters in Pogoh, Segamat, was shared on social media on Monday.

"The 37-year-old victim was swept away by a strong current when he tried to cross the flooded road," Bandar Baru Segamat Fire and Rescue Department chief Mazuki Ismail said in a statement.

The victim managed to cling to a tree before being rescued.

Residents in places such as Johor Baru are making preparations for floods. Some have shifted their items to higher places, while others have been checking on water levels at Skudai River.

"I keep all my important documents on the top shelf of my bookshelf. If needed, I will put them on the third floor before I evacuate," 35-year-old housewife Amanda Chan, who lives in Skudai, Johor, told ST.

Elsewhere, in places such as Hulu Langat district in Selangor, clean-up operations were still taking place more than two weeks after the massive floods on Dec 18 which hit parts of Klang Valley and other states following a tropical depression.

Opposition lawmaker Khalid Samad on Monday urged the King, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah, to address allegations that logging activities in Pahang purportedly linked to the royal family had contributed to the recent severe flooding in the state.

"I sincerely request that Tuanku (Sultan Abdullah) clear his good name by making a statement and distancing His Majesty from those who use his name for their own benefit," he said.

"I request that Tuanku also order that action be taken against those misusing his name and that all logging activities that destroy the environment be stopped immediately."

As part of government efforts to help flood victims, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said that 28,287 of those affected had received cash aid as at Monday.

The Meteorological Department has forecast continuous heavy rain for parts of Johor and Pahang until Tuesday (Jan 4), with the weather in Peninsular Malaysia expected to improve starting from Jan 5.

Fifty-one people are confirmed to have died from the floods so far.

Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri has said that the government is seeking long-term solutions to mitigate flooding, amid criticisms over how his administration had handled the disaster.

Solutions could include implementing more flood mitigation projects, deepening rivers and other waterways, as well as building tunnels like Kuala Lumpur's Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel in high-risk urban areas such as Shah Alam in Selangor.