BLOG FROM KELANTAN: The post-flood lelong - rice, sugar going for RM1
The New Paper journalist Azim Azman and senior photojournalist Mohd Ishak are in Kelantan to see how people are rebuilding their lives after the floods.
As my colleague Ishak and myself walked around downtown Kota Baru, capital of Kelantan, on Thursday, we saw a town that was slowly but surely getting back on its feet.
The first task was to clear the mud from, basically, everywhere.
Second was to leave anything that could possibly be salvaged out to bake in the sun.
Some of the shop owners were busy hawking goods which had been damaged by the floods - at a discount of course.
Mud-covered 500g packets of rice and sugar were going for 1 ringgit (S$0.38), while T-shirts were going for 5 ringgit.
They pile the goods in one muddy pile in front of the shop front to let interested buyers rummage through them.
I was happy that the sun mostly stayed out during my stay in Kelantan - it was easy for us to travel from one affected village to another.
But that also meant that most of the mud that covered Kota Baru had been dried out, so it was dusty everywhere. Every time a vehicle drove by, the dust would be kicked up.
Just another thing that the residents of Kota Baru have to go through as they begin their long road to recovery.
Our search for another area which was badly hit by the floods led us to Tanah Merah, a town that is over an hour away from Kelantan.
When we arrived at the village of Bonggol Nering (in the town of Tanah Merah) we were greeted by the sight of villagers washing their vehicles and collecting water from the Kusial river which had overflown and partially submerged the road leading into the village
The river water was not what we would consider clean but the villagers were still trying to collect it, needing it to clean their homes filled with mud during the flood.
I met retiree Tan Beng Hin, 67, who was collecting the river water with his nephew (below).
He admitted that they had no choice but to use the dirty river water because they simply don't have running water.
"I can't use the water for cooking obviously but I can at least use it to clear the mud from my house." he said.
I later saw some villagers wading through the waters - which was about chest-high - to get to their houses, some of which are still underwater.
I don't know where these villagers get their resilience but they have spades of it.
We were supposed to arrived in Kelantan on Monday evening.
Flight delays meant we reached there only at 6am on Tuesday.
I was expecting scenes of mass devastation everywhere.
But it was heartening to find Kota Baru, capital of Kelantan, regaining its footing after the floodwaters had receded.
Sadly, the same cannot be said for Kuala Krai.
The town, which is about an hour from Kota Baru, was one of the hardest hit by the floods.
With my colleague — senior photojournalist Mohd Ishak — we witnessed shocking scenes there.
The town, which was covered in mud, was in the process of drying, giving it a brown hue.
Any vehicle entering the town from outside provided a striking sight due to its relative cleanliness.
Residents were even seen scooping mud from the second floor of the shop houses which lined Jalan Sultan Jaya Putra.
We headed further inland to the village of Manik Urai, where we saw cars flipped over and houses moved off their foundations.
I talked to Mrs Jarah Wang Hamat, 67, who was could only stand and watch as workers demolished her house. It was moved by the flood waters and was blocking the main road — thereby blocking entry for relief workers.
As if her story was not heart-breaking enough, other residents of the village had many such harrowing stories to tell.
They face months of rebuilding ahead of them.
Since the villagers were cut off from all communications, my status as an outsider turned me into something of a news provider for them.
One asked me about news from other parts of the world, including the AirAsia tragedy.
There was not much I could tell them. My access to information, too, was limited.
The New Paper photojournalist Mohd Ishak (left) and reporter Azim Azman are reporting from Kelantan, where floods have destroyed villages and displaced almost a quarter of a million people.