24 December 2014
My wife and I were back home in Tanah Merah to pick up our kids who spent the last month or so of school holiday with their grandparent. It's been raining a lot these days. The news said it's a combination of the monsoon season and the new moon phenomenon. The monsoon causes the rain and the new moon started to cause some major flooding in some areas. My in laws place were not spared although I wouldn't call it a full-fledged flood yet since water only submerged the empty field in front our house and nowhere else. Still if the rain doesn't stop soon we'll begin to prepare for the worst.
Around midnight the rain shows no sign of stopping and water started to surround our house, knee-deep. We already begun packing our stuff and rearranging the furniture into a pile in the hope that if the flood water does get into the house eventually they wouldn't be damaged. I went to bed around 3 o'clock that day but woke up once or twice to check on the water level.
At six o'clock water was already at our doorstep so we made our final preparations to evacuate the place. It is unfortunate that the house is slightly lower than the main road and there happens to be a small river running about 700 meters from the house. Therefore it is no surprise that we were amongst the first to be hit by the flood. We moved temporarily to a neighbor's house across the road who in tradition with village folk hospitality served us a modest breakfast. Since my mom's place in Pasir Mas town some 30 kilometers away is still not affected by the flood, we decided to go there for refuge.
A few hours later much of Tanah Merah is submerged with water. Water at my parent in laws place had reached the ceiling so everything is pretty much lost or damaged. Last I heard my parent in law is sheltering at one of the flood relief center. We haven't heard from them since.
25 December 2014
Unlike Tanah Merah, Pasir Mas was largely unaffected by the flood especially in and around the town center. There was still electricity and running water, at least for today. The rain is still pouring non-stop though and the Kelantan river water is rising at an alarmingly high rate. We actually had planned to go for a vacation in Cherating tomorrow hence why we still didn't leave the state which proved to be a major mistake on our part. By evening, water had started to flood the street leading to our place. Water from the river apparently flowed through the sewerage system onto our streets. By today the water supply had abruptly stopped and our tap water had suddenly ran dry. We are now depending on supply from our water tanks upstairs and also the trusty well at the back of our house. Near midnight, the electricity had gone out as well. They have shut down power for the entire town for fear of electrocuting folks on the ground. Water had risen to ankle level around our house so we started to slowly move our electrical appliances, furniture and other important stuff upstairs.
26 December 2014
Water had reached knee level around our house. No water was bad enough but no electricity means there's no TV for entertainment, no fan and no refrigeration for our food. We had to cook most of our frozen food quickly or else they will go bad. We have little information of what was going on in the world around us except for the brief time that I had to scroll my Twitter timeline every night. No power means I had to use my phone very sparingly, like half and hour each day. Later in the afternoon, I drove around town meaning to fuel up my car but sadly all of the petrol pumps are either flooded or closed because of no power. Even the ATMs are closed because of that. When the water continued to rise we were worried sick that our car might be submerged and become badly damaged. The entire district is mostly flat so there's no high places we could park our car at. People started to park their cars on the only flyover leading out of town blocking traffic in the process which is so inconsiderate of them. I guess it's true that hardship and disaster brings out the best and the worst in people.
27 December 2014
We did had a good night sleep last night because I managed to park my car at one of the schools nearby which turned into a flood relief center. The school was slightly elevated from normal road level so we don't have to worry so much about it being flooded for quite some time. Today I called the state police headquarters who informed me that only one road and one bridge leading out of town is open at the moment. All of the petrol stations around time is still closed though and I found out from a few people on Twitter that a few petrol stations in Kota Bharu and Pasir Puteh still got petrol for sale. With that information we decided to attempt to leave town for KL via Terengganu, the only route still accessible. Since Pasir Mas town is still flooded, we had to detour to small village roads to make it to the Tendong bridge, the only bridge out of town open to traffic. Unfortunately for us these roads had even more severe flooding compared to Pasir Mas town but still we had to drive submerged in water up to 700 cm deep to keep going. After all that we couldn't get pass this one stretch of road where water was up to our waist. I think we did enough damage to our beloved Alza already then to tempt fate. So with heavy heart we decided to turn around and return back to Pasir Mas. So far our car is still running okay but we'll see if it incurred any damage in the next few days.
The days are thankfully not so hot because of the rain but at night it could get very hot and humid at times. On the way back from our attempt to leave town we spotted some people selling petrol by the roadside. The going rate was 10 ringgit for 1.5 liters about five times more than the market price. Apparently the managed to secure supply from some petrol station still open in Kota Bharu and decided to make a huge profit selling it to desperate people. People like us who had very little gas left in our trunk. We had no choice but to buy 30 ringgit worth of gas for our return trip. The worst of people indeed.
By today water level had fallen down a bit but it is still raining a few times a day. If I could turn back time here's what I would do to prepare myself better for the flood:
1. Fill up my car full tank. Flood will cause many petrol station to close, blackout means all of them will not open.
2. Candles, lots of candles. They run out quickly at the shops or get really expensive.
3. Stock up on dry food - canned foods, ready to eat packs, drinking water.
4. Charge all my power banks, phones and laptop. It might be weeks before electricity returns. That solar power bank doesn't sound like a really bad idea right now.
29 December 2014
After the failed exit attempt the day before, I've decided to hang around town for one more day at least. At least until the flood subsides significantly or until power comes back and the petrol pumps starts working again. As we entered our 4th day in Pasir Mas, somehow we felt like we have overstayed our welcome there. Food are getting less and lesser everyday and there's simply too many mouth to feed every day and most of the shops and markets are not open yet. So today I thought we need to try to make our way back to KL one way or another. After breakfast we packed our bags and attempted to leave Pasir Mas for the 3rd time. Of course I called the state police HQ in Kota Bharu first and the officer in charge said all roads leading to the state capital is cleared for traffic. Kota Bharu is the closest place where there's still electricity and hopefully petrol stations with gas left. On the way there we had to buy another one of those super-expensive petrol in a bottle since our fuel tank is getting really low.
Fortunately for us the road to Kota Bharu was smooth-sailing and passed without any incidents. We did found a couple of petrol stations open and we managed to fill up our tank at one of the Petronas stations in Lundang. Our next mission is to find an ATM machine with money in it. Apparently most of the ATM machines in banks or elsewhere in town had ran out of cash since the flood begin. After stopping at like 5 empty ATM machines we finally found one that's working inside a Bank Islam branch. With a full tank and some money in hand, we made our way to Pasir Puteh town next to Terengganu border meaning to use the East Coast highway as our gateway to KL. We stopped in Pasir Puteh for our much needed lunch. For the first time in days we finally get to have a decent lunch which is not way overpriced. And also we found a mosque with running water where we can wash up and do what's necessary.
The journey through Terengganu was smooth although it rained all the way from Jerteh to Gambang. First we head to Jerteh, Setiu and then into the East Coast Highway and then out again somewhere near Paka into the Jerangau-Jabor road. It still amazes me that using this long highway still incurs no cost up until now which is 2 years after it was completed. Most toll concensionaire I know can't wait to reap toll charges from road users. In Jabor we entered the highway again and this time paid the 6 ringgit something toll charges. From Jabor we took the Gambang exit since the highway is closed because of flooding near Karak. The only way people from the east coast including Kuantan can get to the west and KL is through Pekan - Muadzam Shah and then Bahau in Negeri Sembilan which was the route that we took. The road from Pekan to Muadzam Shah were quite terrible with potholes everywhere and trying to avoid them in the dark was simply torture. I was exhausted when we finally reached Muadzam Shah, a small town in the middle of nowhere in Pahang. That's what driving for 12 hours straight does to you. So after dinner we decided to check in at one of the few budget hotels there. The one we rented was called RSD Hotel which charged R85 per night for a tiny air-conditioned room infested with cockroaches. Well at least it got hot water and we were finally out of Kelantan.
30 December 2014
After a not really good night sleep (all 5 of us were cramped on that tiny queen-sized bed), we packed our stuff and continued our journey. But not before a little disaster struck. The lone dressing cabinet in the tiny hotel room broke down and fell onto our eldest, Adam and hit his head. The mirror broke but lucky for us it didn't cut Adam anywhere on his head. Still we were furious that the landlord didn't bother to check their cheap hotel for rotting furniture which could endanger guests, especially small children. In the end after some serious talking to, the landlord decided not to charge us for our stay, even gave us something extra to pay for the clinic.
Nothing untoward happened next after that little incident at the hotel. We proceed to Bahau some 100 kilometers away and then into Kuala Pilah and finally Seremban. We reached home around 3:00 o'clock that afternoon.
My family and I in Pasir Mas had it easy compared to my in laws in Tanah Merah who suffered serious damage to most of the furniture and appliances due to flood water. It'll be a long time before they could recover and return their live to normalcy. Other people had it even worse - they lost their entire homes altogether. I guess I have to count my blessings and be thankful that we didn't suffer as much as other people.
After almost a week stuck in the flood and a few days without power and running water, we're just mighty glad to make it back into civilization again. I think we've learned some very valuable lessons from this Great Flood of 2014. Like how we should have get out of town as soon as possible when water started to rise all around town. What to prepare ourselves in case we didn't manage to get out of town in time like the one I listed earlier. My kids too learned a something valuable from this major flooding incident. They learned how to make do without TV and gadgets for a few days. How to keep themselves happy and occupied and make the most of what they have. Not being picky and just eat whatever served to them on the table. Not complain much when they have to sleep in total darkness without fans and surrounded by mosquitoes. It's a humbling experience for all of us. It makes us appreciate how lucky we are to be able to do things we normally take for granted in our daily lives.