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Over 100,000 evacuated in S. Malaysia as flood worsens.

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan. 15 Kyodo

More than 100,000 people in Malaysia's southern Johor State have been evacuated following a second wave of flooding, the worst the state has seen in 100 years, officials said Monday.

Persistent rainfall since Dec. 18 has severely crippled Johor, one of Malaysia's most developed states. It borders Singapore.

Rising water, at one time nearly the height of a two-story building, forced thousands to flee their homes, dozens of roads are unpassable, and electricity and water supply are erratic.

Police said that as of Monday, there were 103,588 people registered in 320 relief centers set up in eight of the worst-hit districts in Johor.

Education Minister Hishamadduin Hussein said 106 schools have been closed and would be turned into relief centers, while more than 40 schools in the state are totally inundated with water.

There is also fear of an outbreak of disease after two people in their 40s died of Leptospirosis, a water-borne disease spread by the urine of infected animals such as cattle, rodents and dogs.

The two deaths bring the death toll from the flood since December to at least 17.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said damage caused by the flood, not only in Johor but also in Pahang and Sabah, although on a lighter scale, could amount to over 100 million ringgit (around $27 million).

Drainage and Irrigation Department Director General Keizrul Abdullah told the Star daily that between 500 and 700 millimeters of rain fell in Johor within four days in December, equivalent to the total amount of rainfall the state received in the previous three months.

The current flood mitigation infrastructure was built based on 25 years of rain data.

''But what we saw in Johor was not even recorded in the last 100 years,'' he was quoted as saying.

The unprecedented rainfall, coupled with the flat terrain where the rivers in Johor run through and the tide along the coast, made it ''impossible for the water to flow quickly to the sea.''

''As a result, Johor is akin to sitting in a bowl of water,'' Keizrul said.

Since the first wave of flooding hit in December, Norreha Azahar, 43, together with hundreds of residents in Kampung Laut near the state capital Johor Baru, has been in and out of the relief centers four times in just four weeks.

For her, her husband and seven children, the Pu Sze Chinese Primary School, which has been turned into a relief center, is like a second home, according to the Star.

''I have six school-going children. All their books are gone. My electrical items are also destroyed. What am I going to do now?'' she said.

Norreha has been staying in Kampung Laut for 20 years and this is the first time the family is experiencing what she described as ''monster floods.''

The bad news for Johor is the weather department has forecasted more rain throughout the week.
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Publication:Asian Economic News
Date:Jan 15, 2007
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