Chaos reigns! screamed the front page headline in local daily The Star. “Thousands evacuated in Klang Valley floods,” it said.
There was more. It said 55 families – all in Taman Sri Muda in Shah Alam – were left to fend for themselves with little or no help from the authorities. Millions of ringgit worth of property was damaged.
This was not last week in Taman Sri Muda. It was Christmas Eve of 1995 – 27 years ago.
But all those words could well be used to describe the scenes in Shah Alam last week. Only this time, it was worse. While 9,000 people were affected statewide then, 40,000 people from 9,000 families were hit now.
If that wasn’t bad enough, at least 25 people died in the floods in Selangor alone, more than half of the nationwide figure of 47. Most of the deaths were in Taman Sri Muda.
The place has seen a lot of change in the last three decades. Gone are the days when there was a bus every two hours and when shopping meant going miles away. It now has highways, shopping areas, automobile outlets and is probably one of the most cosmopolitan areas in rather conservative Shah Alam.
However, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The floods have not gone away.
December is not a good time for Taman Sri Muda. Come to think of it, neither have the other months. In April 1995, the area was also reportedly hit by floods, then said to be the worst in 10 years.
More than 10,000 people were affected, the damage was bad with waters reaching 1.2m high and the Selangor government, then under Muhammad Muhammad Taib, allocated RM1 million in aid and promised all sorts of measures to solve the problems.
Before they could do anything, the Christmas Eve floods struck. It has been 27 years since then but the problem has still not gone away. Why?
The debate is now raging. There are those, like Rasuah Busters founder Hussamuddin Yaacub, who say that Taman Sri Muda was meant to be a retention pond but was hijacked by greedy people who turned it into a housing area in the 1980s.
They claim the developer was supposed to raise the ground level by 2m before starting construction but cut corners leaving the area prone to floods from the nearby Sungai Klang-Sungai Damansara confluence.
Yet, there are others who deny the 50,000ha area, once known as Merton Estate, was meant to be a retention pond. They say it was always meant to be a housing area after the colonial-day plantations there were hacked down.
They instead point fingers at former Pakatan Rakyat menteri besar Khalid Ibrahim for stopping a project that would have diverted water from the area to Sungai Langat via an 18km canal.
The finger-pointing can go on but it matters little to the folk of Taman Sri Muda. They continue to drown in misery. The waters have receded but the damage is unimaginable. Flood waters have literally ripped apart homes, tearing down ceilings and fans.
Aid is coming but with politicians involved now, it has been plagued by claims of bias.
Countless videos of people claiming that aid is being given according to race are going viral. It’s heartbreaking, considering that only days ago, all races and religions joined hands in rescue efforts.
These are tough times, and everyone there is suffering. If indeed there is racial bias, someone has to step in and put a stop to it. (cue the King)
The people there all need help, they all need money – a lot of it – to rebuild. The government is offering RM1,000 a house, a pittance by any reckoning.
“The same happened in 1995. Back then, the MB offered us RM250 in compensation,” says long-time Taman Sri Muda resident R Chandrasegaran, who has seen the ground floor of his two-storey house completely destroyed now.
He is among those who were stranded on the balcony of their houses without food and water for more than 12 hours. It was a horrifying wait.
He said he saw a boat carrying adults and children capsize, and a man slip off his roof and fall into the water. He has no idea if they were all rescued.
Even when help finally came, the boatmen, from a Hindu religious group, said they could only carry two people. Chandra, his wife and daughter were stranded in the house.
One boatman finally decided to get off and wait in the house while the boat sent out the family of three.
“It was a boat without an outboard motor, and was pulled by a jetski. We were sailing blind – there was no telling where there could be cars under the water, which would upend the boat.” Thankfully, he got to safety.
He blames the floods on the MPSJ cleaners who allow drains and the river to be clogged with rubbish – and the DID pumps that are always not working.
“It’s always out. The last time when there were minor floods in 2019, I walked over to check the pumps and they had run out of diesel. They had to rush out to buy diesel.
“What kind of maintenance is this. This is rubbish!” he said. “Sri Muda is a planned town, but it is disorganised”.
The same can be said for much of the government’s efforts in the area.
After almost exactly 27 years, chaos is reigning again in Sri Muda. And there’s still little help from the authorities with the people left to fend for themselves.
Some things never change.
Source : FMT