GEORGE TOWN – Slimy mud-caked roads, clogged drains and piles of flood-damaged furniture, clothes and mattresses stacked by the roadside outside row after row of houses partially covered in mud and slime.
This was a common sight in almost all the flood-hit neighbourhoods all over Penang.
The flood waters may have subsided but the aftermath is far worse than what these people had to face when the water started rising during the storm.
It means throwing out almost all of their belongings and cleaning out inches of mud and slime from their houses.
The task ahead is overwhelming and far beyond the abilities of those such as the elderly who have no children to help them or the disabled.
Many were still in a state of disbelief and shock over the disaster. Still, they had choice but to throw out broken furniture, bags of muddied household items, even electrical goods such as televisions and refrigerators, all damaged by the floods.
Looking grim and resigned to the massive cleaning work ahead, the residents of these flood-hit areas on both the island and the mainland have been cleaning up since yesterday but the work seems endless.
Over in Kampung Sheikh Madar, Air Itam, which is located next to the river and was one of the worst hit areas on the island, Mohamed Ismail Mohamed Ibrahim, 75, said everything on the ground floor of his house was destroyed.
“Everything is damaged, even the refrigerator and television fell over in the flood waters,” he said.
Mohamed Ismail has lived in the village for over 60 years right from when the village was built.
Today, the village land belongs to the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) and all of the wooden houses are rented out to the residents, most of whom have lived there for decades.
Mohamed Ismail’s son, Mohamed Nizar, 41, said the village was hit by floods on September 15 and everything on their ground flood was also damaged.
“I bought new furniture and new electrical items, everything was new and this happened again,” he said.
The family is still cleaning out the mud from their house and trying to salvage any items that can still be used after washing.
For 76-year-old Tho You Seng, he may not have much but the flood damaged all of his clothes so all he has for now is just his muddied shorts.
“Even my eye medication was washed away by the floods,” he said.
Tho, who lived with his elder sister, is visually impaired so he cannot help his sister with the cleaning up.
“It is good that the Tzu Chi people came along to help us,” he said as he sat down on a dusty chair in his almost bare living room, his bare feet, walking cane and the cement floors still muddied from the floods.
Tho said it was a good thing the wooden house he’s living in, also in Kampung Sheikh Madar, has a second storey so he could climb to safety when the flood waters started rising.
“That night, someone was running around the village shouting ‘banjir, banjir’ so I quickly went upstairs to sleep and even then, I could feel the water was already up to my knees,” he said.
Over on the mainland, in north Seberang Perai and central Seberang Perai, there were similar scenes of muddied roads and piles of broken and damaged household items while residents washed their houses.
In Taman Seri Rambai, Bukit Mertajam, the flood came as a shock to most of the residents as the area has not experienced such massive floods for over 20 years.
“Even back in 1995 during a massive flood, the water rose up to about three feet but this time, it went up to five feet, so everything was destroyed,” said one of them, Leong Chee Meng, 63.
Leong is a tropical fish breeder with ponds in his house compound so when the whole area was flooded, all of his fishes were also washed away.
“I estimate our losses, our furniture, our fishes, everything, to be about RM200,000,” he said.
In every house affected by the floods, the residents faced not only a daunting clean-up but also insurmountable losses that most could not measure in monetary terms.
As Mohamed Ismail puts it, “We are left with an empty void after this because we have lost almost everything.”