Malaysia: 46 dead after worst flooding in country in years

The government’s handling of the disaster has been widely criticized, with the Malaysian prime minister himself acknowledging « weaknesses » but promising progress in the future.

The flood toll in Malaysia, the worst in several years, rose to 46 dead on Saturday, with five more people still missing, authorities said, as crews continued a massive cleanup on Christmas Day.

Torrential rains caused flooding in several towns and villages across the Southeast Asian country last week, cutting off major roads and forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of people.

One of the worst affected regions is Selangor, the richest and most densely populated state in the country, which surrounds the capital Kuala Lumpur.

Residents trapped

Many residents of the state capital, Shah Alam, were trapped in their homes for several days with little to eat before being evacuated by boat in a chaotic operation.

Police Inspector General Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani said the death toll stood at 46 as new bodies were found, with the majority of victims in Selangor and Pahang states.

« There are still five missing people. We hope they will be found soon, » he told a press conference.

He added that 54,532 people were still distributed among more than 300 evacuation centers in seven states and that 68 roads remained closed due to the flooding.

Work crews used backhoes and trucks to remove items strewn from the streets, Acryl Sani said, while urging caution as some rivers remain swollen.

A « governance catastrophe »

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim called for an investigation into the government’s handling of the flood, which was widely criticized.

Poor coordination between government agencies and a late deployment of the army « have turned a natural disaster into a human, governance disaster, » he said.

Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob admitted « weaknesses » in the government’s response, but promised progress going forward.

Malaysia suffers from annual flooding during the rainy season, but the weekend floods were the worst since 2014. The role of global warming has been pointed out in the worsening floods.

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