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(Mis)adventures in Johor (The Star/Comment, 15 Jan 07)

February 3rd, 2007 (01:03 pm)

(Mis)adventures in Johor

By MEERA VIJAYAN 

Trapped for almost three days after narrowly avoiding dangers. 

I USED to be cynical hearing stories of people hoarding supplies to get through difficult times. 

But after spending close to three days stranded in Bandar Tenggara, one of the worst hit flood areas in Johor, I now understand how easy it is for even the sanest of people to turn into a panic stricken “Hoardzilla.” 

Many a time, I fought the urge to grab bottles of mineral water from shops, especially after water supply was disrupted when the floodwaters washed away part of a road linking Bandar Tenggara with Kluang. 

Our (mis)adventures began when photographer Kenneth Wong and I were sent to Kota Tinggi on Friday to see how the local folks were coping with the floods. 

After sending our stories, we quickly drove back along Jalan Kota Tinggi as water levels rose rapidly. But our journey came to a halt after the Kulai junction; a major landslide had completely blocked the way. 

It would take at least five to six hours to clear the debris, so we decided to use the route we came – cutting across Kluang before turning around to Johor Baru via the North- South Expressway. No other alternative roads were available as even Sg Sayong in Kulai had overflowed. 

After driving more than 100km along the pothole-riddled trunk road in heavy rain and crossing into the Kluang border, we found ourselves stuck again. Floodwaters at Felda Ulu Penggeli had risen dangerously. 

By then, it was impossible to turn back to Kota Tinggi as another landslide had cut off access in Lenggiu, the road we had passed just a while ago. We were trapped! 

Feeling exhausted and dejected, we drove back to the petrol station at Bandar Tenggara to decide our next course of action. Upon reaching at nearly 11pm, we were told there was no hotel in the area. 

Just then, a man in a Rela jacket told us of a Kejora (Kemajuan Johor Tenggara) rest house. He called the caretaker and confirmed it was available and took us there personally. I could have cried with gratitude as otherwise, we would have had to camp it out in my little Kelisa. 

The next morning, most of Bandar Tenggara woke up to dry taps; the water pipes were broken when the floods washed away some 20m of road at Felda Ulu Penggeli along Jalan Kota Tinggi-Kluang. 

After getting necessities such as soap, toothpaste and bottles of mineral water, we hurried off to check the road that had been swept away. Hundreds of people were already gathered there, watching the raging river that swept through what used to be a road. 

After a few quick interviews, we headed back only to notice the long queues outside petrol stations. Panic hoarding of petrol had begun, with many motorists driving over from Kota Tinggi as petrol stations there were already covered in water. We joined in the line and I filled my tank to the brim. 

We quickly sent our stories over from the Kejora office and by the end of the second day, I had traded my handbag for a waist pouch, shoes for slippers and given up my eyeliner and lipstick. Kenneth was longing to go home to be with his family for his birthday today. 

Family members and concerned friends called constantly to inquire about our well-being, one even tried to lighten the mood by joking that poor Bigfoot might have drowned in the floods. 

By day three, the flood situation worsened dramatically all over the state. The Star's other photographer in Kota Tinggi had short-circuited his camera in the floodwaters and we had to get back to the office, even if it meant returning by boat. 

I was dismayed at the thought of leaving my car behind but we quickly headed back to the Kejora office to settle our bills. Luck was on our side as the office arranged the transport for us. 

We were driven in a van to the spot where the road had been swept away. As the raging “river” had subsided, we scrambled through mud and water to the other side. Waiting there was a car that took us to Kluang so we could take a bus or a taxi back to Johor Baru. 

Upon reaching the bus station, greedy taxi drivers attempted to fleece us by demanding RM100 for a trip back. Disgusted, we bought two bus tickets for RM7.50 each instead and got back to Johor Baru within 90 minutes. 

Looking back, I realise just how fortunate we had been. Many things could have gone wrong in the past three days, but we seemed to have a guardian angel guiding us along the way. An amazing sense of timing had allowed us to narrowly escape landslides, swept-away roads and dangerous floods. 

It may have been an ordeal but I am not going to moan one bit. We have been extremely lucky compared to some 100,000 people in my state who have lost almost all their belongings. 

I will be thinking about them and counting my blessings as I cuddle up with my pillows in my cosy bed. And Ken, I hope you enjoy your Korean dinner with your family tonight. Happy Birthday!


Comments

Posted by: Pierce (pierce_79)
Posted at: February 3rd, 2007 05:50 pm (UTC)

My goodness, to think I was completely unaware of your ordeal makes me feel guilty. I'm so thankful you're alright. Meera mol, promise you won't do silly things like this again! I just chat to you the other day!

I'm calling you first thing in the morning!

Posted by: Dancing Flames (inky_quirks)
Posted at: February 4th, 2007 01:42 pm (UTC)

hehehe, thanks for calling earlier, sweetie! i shall promise nothing of the sort tho! :D it was dramatic and exciting!

as my bureau chief said, getting stuck in Bandar Tenggara was the highlight of my career coz this first person account piece came with a photobyline! *grins*

i looked massively grumpy in the pic tho! hehehe

Posted by: Pierce (pierce_79)
Posted at: February 3rd, 2007 05:52 pm (UTC)

EEEEE! I just saw the date! You didn't tell me this happened! I'm calling you anyway!

Posted by: Dancing Flames (inky_quirks)
Posted at: February 4th, 2007 01:45 pm (UTC)

i didn't get around to telling u la! meant to tho!

each time i went to kota tinggi after that, amma and grandma would get totally paranoid and start panicking *grins*

Posted by: Shalu (shaluvk)
Posted at: February 3rd, 2007 08:46 pm (UTC)
rolling

OMG, OMG- gave me the heebie jeebies just reading abt it. the editor who sent you to kota tinggi needs to get his back side kicked big time. i trust that you're feeling fine now!

take care.

Posted by: Dancing Flames (inky_quirks)
Posted at: February 4th, 2007 01:48 pm (UTC)

your comment made me start laughing! :D heebie jeebies!

i'm glad i managed to have such an effect on you *grins*

seriously, i wouldn't have exchanged this adventure for anything tho! and the mind has a fabulous way of softening your memory...after a couple of weeks, its all a hazy glow :D

Posted by: Scott (basefinder)
Posted at: February 3rd, 2007 08:52 pm (UTC)

What an ordeal. I'm glad you are home safe and able to write about it now.

Posted by: Dancing Flames (inky_quirks)
Posted at: February 4th, 2007 01:52 pm (UTC)

i'm glad too, scott!

I am mosssst thankful that the Kejora dudes managed to get my car to me safely without any parts of it smuggled out to neighbouring countries as scrap metal! :D

i was totally heartbroken at the thought of having to leave my poor car behind, but its all good now! yay! :)

Posted by: Jim Skipper (skipperja)
Posted at: March 3rd, 2007 03:30 am (UTC)

It's great that you got your car back in one piece! Right here in Houston, Texas, my son left his on the street overnight and someone broke a window and stole the radio and then the battery. It was on a well lighted freeway!

But people seem to be more helpful in times of difficulty like that.

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: February 25th, 2007 04:36 am (UTC)
no new posts in ages

hope everything is fine!

-Parijat

Posted by: Dancing Flames (inky_quirks)
Posted at: April 20th, 2007 09:24 am (UTC)
Re: no new posts in ages

Hehe, yeah, everything is fine. I just couldn't write for a while :) Back to posting now! :) How are u?

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: June 27th, 2007 06:10 am (UTC)
Re: no new posts in ages

Hey ... I am good ... not been posting much of late myself ...

But then there's a difference between generally not posting and writing your last post under seemingly rather hazardous circumstances and then disappearing :)

Glad to know you made it back fine!

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: June 27th, 2007 06:12 am (UTC)
Re: no new posts in ages

oops forgot to sign my reply above ... Parijat aka lone_wolf etc.
guess I need to get an openId whatever that might be :( !!!

Posted by: My Journey (illusorynirvana)
Posted at: April 17th, 2007 05:20 am (UTC)

update update! u r worse than me! hehe...i hvnt been on lj in so long!

Posted by: Dancing Flames (inky_quirks)
Posted at: April 20th, 2007 09:25 am (UTC)

Me too! I stopped coming for a while and just got into the habit of not writing and the longer I thought about it, the harder it became to write...i think you may understand, ya? :)
Anyway, I postedddddddddd!! Go see! *grins*

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