Dignified in the face of adversity
Published: 26 January 2015
Temiar villagers in the process of building temporary shelters after recent floods in Kuala Betis.
Timothy Achariam | Photos by Asyraf Rasid
The Sun | 27 January 2015
The recent floods that hit remote villages near Kuala Betis has left Temiar tribe villagers in the area in dire straits.
Although relief provisions sent by government agencies, non-governmental organisations and other concerned parties seem abundant, residents of the Ipes and Balyek villages just off Kuala Betis are still surviving on scant food rations.
For some 200 families there, the sound of a helicopter approaching stirs feelings of relief and disappointment.
While they are glad that the arrival of aid would mean they would have food to eat that night, the thought is flavoured with sadness in knowing that the rations provided would not last them the week.
Since the village is currently only accessible by helicopter, the villagers can never be certain if they will have enough food, as delivery of aid supplies is sporadic.
"We do not get food every time a helicopter lands. Sometimes, it is a medical team coming to check on us," he said.
Ipes village chief Alang Tengah said three children have died in the village as the medical teams could not reach them in time.
Balyek village chief Zamri Talib said when the floods hit, everybody was in a state of panic as they had no place of refuge.
"Aid only came two weeks after the floods and by that time, we were already starving as our crops had been destroyed " he told theSun.
The floods, which the locals referred to as "anak (small) tsunami" is over now and the challenge for the Ipes and Balyek folk is to rebuild the roads that have been destroyed, cutting them off.
It used to take them five hours by motorcycle to get out of Kuala Betis, now takes two or three days.
"The most important thing for us is to rebuild the road. The men in both the villages work at night right through till morning to pave the road with hoes so we can have access to the towns and find work in Kuala Betis," said Zamri.
"We do not want to seek handouts, we just want to fend for ourselves and get back to our ways. We just need to get our roads back," said Zamri.
These villagers are just a small percentage of the 5,000 people in the Kuala Betis area who were affected by the floods.
They are struggling just to regain some semblance of their normal lives ... before the blight brought by anak tsunami.
A helicopter with food and medical supplies sent in by JOAS-COAC and UNITED SIKHS on 26 January arrives at the Ipes village in Kuala Betis.
Orang Asli family sitting in front of their house, which was hit by floods, after the waters has receded in Kuala Betis,