Washed Away

By Sarah Rothi 

Photo credit: Zahariah

Wednesday evening and just like any other day in Malaysia that I’ve become used to, a thunderstorm erupts. I stared out my window and my eyes met the ominous sky, flashing lights illuminating the sky, and thunderous booms that shook the whole house. From where I was standing I was also able to see the riverbank situated across the street, the water level was rising pretty quickly.  I sighed. Though this natural occurrence wasn’t anything new I was still bummed to waste yet another day indoors. I drew the curtains and resigned to my bed with a laptop in hand, ready to browse the web and call it a day. Hours had passed and yet, the thunderstorm showed no signs of stopping. Suddenly a car alarm went off, and another, and another, followed by manic shouting. I peeked out my windows and witnessed the horror unfolding: the river was overflowing and had begun to flood my neighbourhood. Not again, I thought to myself. I ran downstairs and was greeted by a knee-deep pool of murky water. I trudged through and went outside to find my family and neighbours in a panicked state, consoling one another. The water was steadily climbing up to our hips by the minute as the rain relentlessly poured. 

This was worse than any other floods we’d experienced, the connecting seas were at an exceptionally high tide and were filling up the river rapidly. This, combined with the heavy rain, equated to disaster and the community’s drainage system was made redundant. We had no other option but to wait it out until the tides lowered again before we could activate the drains and flush out the excess water back into the river. Fortunately, despite all that was happening, our local community’s aid team managed to arrive on lifeboats, ready to evacuate us to a nearby shelter, where we could safely wait out the storm. One by one, each household was whisked away to safety where we were provided with food, water, and dry towels. When it was my family’s turn to be evacuated, I took one last glance at the scene we were leaving behind. Sunken cars, permanently damaged homes that once housed happy memories, lifeless foliage floating in the waters, and amongst the wreckage monitor lizards were swimming around, drifting farther and farther away from their own homes. I couldn’t help but wonder about the other life forms that weren’t as fortunate to survive.

Photo credit: Zahariah

It took several months for our community to recover from our losses. Our city council sent out help to clear the streets of debris, mud, and rubbish that were carried from the river. Some households, including mine, remained to restore our houses back to, or close to, their former glory, but many residents left the neighbourhood. The not-knowing whether another major flood would happen again in the future was too much to bear. I can’t blame them. Our neighbourhood was built in such a way that minor floods were inevitable, it took an occurrence this major for the government to come up with any precautionary measures for future floods.

The river was excavated to create a wider and deeper pathway so it can yield a greater Waterflow, and taller barriers were installed between us and the river. Even more water retention centres had to be built, which sadly led to the destruction of lands to accommodate them. Though it came at the cost of the environment, the action plan by the government has helped to prevent floods from happening since then. That was 15 years ago but the memories still play vividly in my head, for now, floods are a thing of the past for my neighbourhood. We haven’t experienced anything remotely as disastrous, though heavy thunderstorms still remain the norm. We have our fair share of strong winds ripping trees and signposts from the ground but that’s something, not even mankind can prepare for. Although my community is no longer affected, I wish the same can be said for other parts of Malaysia.

In 2021 alone, thousands of Malaysians were left displaced due to major flash floods. (Davies, 2021) These incidents resulted in many citizens being homeless, injured and, even worse, dead. Their livelihoods are ripped away at the blink of an eye and rainfalls are only getting heavier by the year as global warming continues. As Earth’s temperature continues to rise, this leads to more moisture being retained within the atmosphere resulting in heavier rainfalls, adding onto the already wet monsoon seasons we face annually. Actions must be taken by world leaders to ensure this doesn’t continue by implementing renewable energy sources, reducing our carbon footprints by promoting public transport rather than using personal vehicles, and educating the community on how to do their part in saving the Earth; it’s not only for us but also the future generations.

References

  1. Davies, R., 2021. (Updated) Malaysia – Almost 2,000 Displaced by Floods in Sabah, Nearly 4,000 Displaced in Sarawak. [online] Floodlist.com. Available at: <http://floodlist.com/asia/malaysia-floods-sabah-january-2021&gt; [Accessed 17 May 2021].
  2. Davies, R., 2021. (Updated) Malaysia – Floods in Johor and Pahang Leave Thousands Displaced, 1 Dead, 1 Missing. [online] Floodlist.com. Available at: <http://floodlist.com/asia/malaysia-floods-johor-pahang-january-2021&gt; [Accessed 17 May 2021].

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