KOTA BARU: Most residents in the border town of Rantau Panjang, Pasir Mas had risen at dawn a day after New Year, only to find their legs in water up to their knees.
Among them was Mek Azizah, a senior citizen who lived alone in her house in Kampung Baroh Pial. She had to leave her home with practically nothing as the flood caught everyone unawares.
“The evacuation boat came to the area really fast. Before the sun was fully up, we were all put on boats and heading to the nearest flood relief centre.
“I only had time to grab my MyKad and a few clothes that were still dry,” she said last week when met at the relief centre in SK Gual Tinggi.
Rantau Panjang Fire and Rescue Department head, Fire Asst Supt Mohd Adni Ibrahim and his team had many a sleepless night trying to ensure no one was left behind.
“As early as 8am, the department will run a routine operation where we comb village areas to ensure no one is trapped, but of course we will dispatch aid at any time once a call comes in,” he said.
Things were not easy for the civilians either, as entire villages were crammed into classrooms with minimal facilities. Long queues for the toilet and shower areas were common.
Despite the dire situation, Mek Azizah and her neighbours hardly complained about having to be evacuated.
“No one wants this to happen, especially since we were not prepared.
“But what can we do? It has happened, and now we just need to make the best of the situation,” she said.
Mek Azizah’s statement was resonant of what most outsiders converging in the area to provide aid would quickly discover – that the Kelantanese were masters at disaster survival.
Adults at the relief centres volunteered to babysit children, help to cook food, wash clothes and clean the relief centres.
An excellent show of solidarity in difficult times was during the search operation for teenager Wan Rostam Danaeil Wan Roszan, who fell into Sungai Kelantan at Kampung Laut on Jan 3.
Kelantan police chief Datuk Dr Ab Rahman Ismail had described how local fishermen brought their boats alongside the marine police and other authorities.
“I was very touched to learn that at least 10 fishermen’s boats were out with the authorities to find him. This is true volunteer spirit and the gesture is definitely appreciated,” he said.
It was a long six days before the floods finally began receding on Saturday, evacuees were allowed to go home and the flood relief centres were closed.
However, seeing as school was set to reopen the next day, many came back to help clean up efforts by the Malaysian Army, the Fire and Rescue Department and the Civil Defence Force.
One of the hardest hit places during the flood was the SK Sri Rantau Panjang 1, within the duty free zone right next to Sungai Golok and the Malaysia-Thailand border.
Before the Fire and Rescue Department arrived at 9am last Sunday with their water trucks, teachers, parents and other volunteers were already scrubbing away at the mud on the ground floor.
The next day, school headmaster Md Saleh Hamat observed school teachers registering almost full attendance of students on the first day of the 2017 school term.
“Although some pools of water from the clean up were still visible, it was hardly a discomfort to the pupils and teachers who went on with lessons.
“Of course there will be more work to do, but for now we have cleaned up as much as we can to ensure the pupils can have lessons in a relatively safe and clean environment,” he said, adding that he was proud that when the school most needed help, he could count on the community to be there for the students.-thestar