Family of 15, with baby, recall chilling escape in small boat

JERTIH: A family of 15, including a frail 90-year-old man and a three-month-old baby, could only mutter in prayer when they were escaping rising waters to reach higher ground — in a small boat built for three.

The big group was thus only evacuated after multiple trips and even relied on a raft to save themselves from raging floodwaters in the chilling episode near here last Sunday.

Siti Noraslizawati Mohamad, 32, said her fate along with her grandmother, mother, father, siblings, nephews and nieces depended on a small fibreglass boat and a raft made of plastic pipes to reach a homestay located about 500 metres away as their homes slowly went under.

“We live in three houses … and residents started evacuating at around 4.30 pm on Sunday because the water level was up to the waist of an adult and it was rising rapidly.

“The boat can only be boarded by three people at one time, so the younger siblings had to row back and forth for one kilometre with round trips to transport us through the rubber plantation which was swamped with swirling waters,” she recalled at her family’s home at Kampung Durian Telur in Hulu Besut near here today.

She said her family prayed ceaselessly throughout the swaying boat ride, fearing that tragedy could strike anytime in the lashing rain and strong currents.

“(Once safe) We stayed at a guesthouse owned by a retired policeman because that was the only high place closest to our house.

“It happened that the owner of the country home was present at the time of the flood surge because he too was stranded and unable to return to Jertih since all the roads were flooded,” she said.

Siti Noraslizawati and her family were grateful to the pensioner for not only giving them shelter but also providing meals, before food was eventually delivered by the village head by boat on Monday.

According to her, the floodwater rose very fast and was even deeper by Monday, such that all three of her family houses were submerged up to the roof and all items in the houses could not be saved.

“For the time being (after waters receded), we are taking shelter in the car garage which is used as a resting place, and sleeping there because everything inside the houses is wet,” she said. – Bernama