Rain expected to continue for about a week, as officials struggle to get aid to some impacted communities

December 28, 2014 10:21AM ET
Local residents use a boat to cross flooded streets in Pengkalan Chepa, near Kota Bharu, Malaysia, on Dec. 27, 2014. Mohd Rasfan / AFP / Getty Images

Severe flooding in Malaysia and Thailand has killed at least 24 people and forced the evacuation of more than 200,000, according to official data reported Sunday.

Northeastern Malaysia and southern Thailand are regularly hit by flooding during the annual northeast monsoon, but this year the rain has been particularly heavy. Scientists have predicted that as climate change worsens, storm patterns will become less predictable and more severe.

The worst flooding in Malaysia in more than a decade has killed 10 people, authorities said Sunday. Five of those casualties were in the worst-hit state of Kelantan, in the northeastern part of the Malaysian peninsula. Across the border in southern Thailand, 14 people have been killed in the floods that began in mid-December.

There are fears that the death toll could increase as communities have been left stranded without food or medicine.

“There was a lot of noise outside my home. I could also hear people giving instructions to move to the school,” Nazri Mohd Nor, a factory worker in Perak State in northwestern Malaysia, told The Star, a Malaysian news website. “I was shocked to see the water level had reached my knees as I got out of bed.”

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak toured some of the worst-hit areas this weekend, stopping in Kelantan where the number of displaced people doubled to over 80,000 from Friday, following his return from a vacation in Hawaii on Friday. Najib was criticized for his absence during the calamity, after being photographed playing golf with U.S. President Barack Obama.

Flooding in Kelantan was slowly subsiding, but waters were still at dangerous levels, according to official statistics from the National Security Council’s disaster portal.

More rainfall is expected in the coming days, according to Mohd Hisham Mohd Anip, a senior meteorological officer with the National Weather Centre of the Malaysia Meteorological Department, told the Malaysian Insider.

“It will help to develop very dense rain clouds and the result in two or three days of continuous rain that will occasionally be heavy,” Anip said.

The Malaysian government said rain in Kelantan and southern Thailand would last for at least another week. An official in the southern Thai border town of Sungai Kolok said it would take up to two days for water levels to drop and for the border to be reopened.

Al Jazeera and wire services

http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/12/28/malaysia-flood-evacuations.html