Residents of Long Panai cleaning their church after the flood receded at about 9am this morning.

MIRI: Residents of Long Panai have finally been able to start cleaning up today after their longhouse by the Tutoh River was inundated by flood waters over three days.

Flooding is a perennial problem for the 129-door longhouse of about 1,000 people in the Apoh region of central Baram, but the recent flood has been the worst so far this year.

Ngau Ding Ngau, 68, a representative of the village’s headman, said the longhouse has been flooded three times this year alone.

“If I were to compare the three floods for this year alone, this is probably the worst because of the level of water inside the longhouse. We were submerged up to four-feet (1.12m) of water,” he said when contacted.

Despite the situation, Ngau Ding said it was lucky that they had not started planting paddy for this year as they would have nothing to harvest at the end of the year.

“We had just started clearing the jungle and were planning to start planting soon. However, those who planted vegetables around the longhouse will suffer losses due to the flood this time,” he added.

Ngau Ding said as the water had receded at about 9am today, the villagers have started washing away the mud that have been left behind by the flood.

He added that the longhouse has been flooded for three days but the situation has improved today. Ngau Ding said the water level has receded and that the villagers have started cleaning the mud in their respective doors and also the church.

When asked when the worst flood hit Long Panai, Ngau Ding, a former teacher, said he recalled a flood incident in 1993.

“The flood at the time was the worst in the history of Long Panai, if I am not mistaken. The longhouse was seven feet (2.1m) underwater,” he said, adding that the ceiling was about nine-feet (2.7m) high.

Asked if the longhouse folk had suggested moving to higher ground, Ngau Ding said there was a proposal by the younger generation to build a new longhouse on higher ground.

“There are a few families who wanted to build a new longhouse on the top of a hill here, but still in the vicinity of the old longhouse. This was the suggestion of mainly our young people.
“As for us, the older generations, we do not want to move as the cost to build a new longhouse is beyond our reach and we are no longer able to build one as we are in our late 60s,” he said.

He however remained open to the idea of moving to higher ground if the state government is willing to assist them.

Apart from Long Panai, other villages that are flood-prone in the district are Long Bemang, Long Patan, Long Ukok, Linai and Kuala Linai.