More than 90,000 evacuated as second wave of floods hit southern Malaysia

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The Independent Online

More than 90,000 people have been evacuated from southern Malaysia following a second wave of flooding, with one only rooftops poking above floodwaters in one town, officials and news reports said Sunday.

The fresh floods in southern Johor state came after many people had returned home from the public shelters they had moved to in late December, when heavy rains caused major rivers to overflow, killing at least 17 people, blocking roads and railway lines and disrupting power supplies.

A Johor police official said incessant heavy rains since Thursday night forced the evacuation of 92,500 people to 355 relief centers.

No casualties have been reported in the state, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity citing the department's policy.

The Meteorological Department, in a red alert warning on its Web site, said the heavy rain was expected to continue until Monday. The red alert is the highest of a three stage warning system issued by the Meteorological Department, and signals heavy monsoon rains and floods.

Government disaster relief officials could not be immediately reached for further details.

The New Straits Times newspaper described the flooding in Kota Tinggi town in Johor state as the worst in its history. Virtually the entire town was affected and only rooftops of houses and shops could be seen, the paper reported.

Waters had risen to over 3 meters (9 feet) and the town was cut off from the rest of Johor except by helicopter and boat, it said.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the government may declare a state of emergency in Johor if the floods worsen, the national news agency Bernama reported.

Abdullah will visit the affected areas on Monday after his return from a regional summit in the Philippines, the report said.

Abdullah had said the first wave of flooding - which the government had described as the most severe in a century in southern Malaysia - had left a trail of damage exceeding 100 million ringgit (US$28 million; ¤22 million) in value.

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