Malaysia volunteers and NGOs band together to aid flood victims

·Contributor
·7-min read
Volunteers evacuated people in a boat at Taman Sri Muda, Shah Alam, Malaysia, on December 21, 2021. Four more bodies have been found after the floods in Taman Sri Muda, bringing the death toll to 12 (seven men and five women). (Photo by Afif Abd Halim/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Volunteers evacuated people in a boat at Taman Sri Muda, Shah Alam, Malaysia, on December 21, 2021. Four more bodies have been found after the floods in Taman Sri Muda, bringing the death toll to 12 (seven men and five women). (Photo by Afif Abd Halim/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

More than 65,000 people were driven out of their homes, most of them in Selangor, after torrential rains in Malaysia caused flooding across the country. The downpour that started last Friday (17 Dec) and lasted over the weekend hit Shah Alam and Klang the worst. The government has since mobilised over 66,000 personnel nationwide to aid in rescue efforts.

With thousands of people evacuated, the death toll from last weekend’s flood had risen to 27, with 20 from Selangor and seven from Pahang. The death toll is also expected to climb as reports of missing people continue to be filed.

On the ground, many non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have also come together to help rescue people stranded by floodwaters, bring displaced people to shelters, and aid in clean-up efforts. Yahoo SEA Life spoke to Ushar Daniele, 32, a Kuala Lumpur-based journalist, about her rescue and transport efforts and her mental well-being while actively hands-on with rescue efforts.

“I just woke up on Sunday and decided that it didn’t feel right not to go, help people when they need help especially being so close to me. So my boyfriend, Timothy Anthony, 28, and I decided to offer up our 4x4 on Twitter for rescue or transport.”

Before the couple knew it, Daniele and Anthony had been on the ground since Sunday (19 Dec) to aid in rescuing stranded Malaysians, “wading through waters in Section 22/23 till 1am.”

Selangor, which is Malaysia’s most populous and wealthiest state, typically manages to avoid the worst of the country’s annual monsoon floods. Commenting on the floods, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Ismail Sabri said, “It’s a bit chaotic in Selangor right now... in other states, preparations would be made earlier for the monsoon. But in Selangor, this happened almost suddenly.”

For Daniele and many Malaysians, using their social media platforms to offer help and to receive aid had been the quickest. “We are not affiliated with any organisation - I am a freelance journalist working on my capacity as a Malaysian to help with initial rescue coordination,” Daniele shared.

I am exhausted, so are the other volunteers helping on the ground. Physically manageable, but mentally, I am constantly worried about the safety of others who may still be trapped in flood situations.

Made up of strangers and fellow Malaysians who want to lend a helping hand, a mobile team was quickly formed via Twitter requests. “Twitter has been very helpful throughout the ordeal.” Indeed, a look on Twitter yields many tweets of kind Samantarians offering food, shelter, and hygiene kits since Friday.

“Seeing people come together to buy kayaks, food, drinks to help the victims has truly been one of the best things about being Malaysian. Endless calls and messages came in to offer help, and the necessary was very heartwarming,” Daniele told Yahoo Life SEA.

However, not only were the rescue efforts tiring and physically demanding, but they also took a toll on volunteers’ mental health, watching as fellow Malaysians’ prized possessions and properties were destroyed overnight.

“I am exhausted, so are the other volunteers helping on the ground. Physically manageable, but mentally, I am constantly worried about the safety of others who may still be trapped in flood situations. It’s not easy to say no to someone who requests help, especially in areas where water levels are up to neck level, according to rescuers from the team.”

Furthermore, while Daniele’s team did not want to leave anyone behind, some of the rescues needed boats and professionals’ assistance for them to be carried out. These were not within the team’s control, and such rescues were put on hold as the aid was not present on Sunday (19 Dec). While the disaster had highlighted the importance of citizens’ efforts in the rescues throughout the ordeal, it also spotlighted the authorities’ failure to assist the victims in a timely and organised manner.

“I hope this is a wake-up call for the authorities to take responsibility for the lives lost and damages caused by the flooding, which could’ve been managed on Saturday. The very late response was beneficial, but more lives could’ve been saved if they acted sooner.”

For parts of Malaysia that were heavily affected by the floodwaters, aid in clean-up is desperately needed, and people are encouraged to volunteer their assistance wherever possible. “As for the east coast flooding, in any way people can help send donations or want to help, work with NGOs like Mercy Malaysia or even youth parties like MUDA who are tirelessly helping victims in peninsula Malaysia,” Daniele said.

“I know that at the end of the day, Malaysians of different races and religions are kind people,” Daniele added.

The relief team who are volunteers, have been working hard to get everyone out to safety. (PHOTO: Ushar Daniele)
The relief team who are volunteers, have been working hard to get everyone out to safety. (PHOTO: Ushar Daniele)

Here is a list of agencies and NGOs you can donate or volunteer your time:

Non-profit medical organisation Mercy Malaysia is seeking to raise funds for essentials such as food, sanitary needs. Head on to their website to find out more.

Great Heart Charity is looking to fundraise up to RM30,000 (S$10,000) to buy flood relief kits.

Muar Member of Parliament Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman’s youth political party, MUDA, are looking for volunteers to aid in their rescue efforts and donations to fund relief essentials.

Sikh place of worship Gurudwara Sahib Petaling Jaya is seeking volunteers with 4x4 vehicles to assist them in delivering vegetarian and halal meals for flood victims. Call their hotline +6010-2174556.

If you have thoughts of suicide or are feeling distressed and want to talk to someone:

You can call non-profit organisation Befrienders Kuala Lumpur 24-hour hotline at +603-76272929.

Malaysian Mental Health Association provides support via their phone line on any mental health issues. Call +603-2780 6803.

Lifeline Association Malaysia offers free consultation services face-to-face, over the phone and through email. Call +603-42657995.

AWAM provides counselling and legal aid services to survivors of gender-based violence. Their helpline is open to everyone both women and men. Call +603-7877 0224.

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