Standing by the riverbank and watching the water flow calmly, it is hard to believe that the strong currents during the floods at the end of 2014 had brought down the concrete bridge spanning across the 300-metre wide Sungai Nenggeri.
Only the concrete pillars and protruding steel bars serve as the reminder that the three decade old Pulau Setelu Bridge had once stood here.
The bridge had served as a shortcut to Jeli, but now people are forced to take a longer route through Dabong and Tanah Merah with an additional travel time of about an hour to reach the same destination.
The destroyed bridge located about a half an hour drive from Gua Musang is among the biggest infrastructure damage incurred after floods hit the area.
The most affected by the collapse of the bridge were villagers of Kampung Setelu and Kampung Star where both are located at the opposite ends of the bridge.
BOATS AS REPLACEMENTS
If once motorcycles, cars and buses were the main transportation for villagers now they rely heavily on boats to get them to Gua Musang to procure essential goods.
The writers who camped out here for several days found that even school children have to take the boat to school.
As early as 5am, some 100 children hopped on small boats which braved strong currents to get to the other side.
Boat operator Mokhtar Dahari, 34, told Bernama that a secondary school and a primary school catered for the educational needs of the neighbouring areas.
He recalled an incident where a boat operated by a friend had overturned while traversing the choppy waters.
"Luckily the boat was only carrying supplies. Imagine if the boat was filled with school children.
"However, we are always cautious when crossing Sungai Nenggiri to prevent untoward incidents," he said.
THE PROBLEM WITH LOGS AND WOOD
When asked the cause of the collapse of the bridge Ahmad Ramadhan, who grew up in Kampung Baru Star located about 8km away from the bridge, said he saw logs and bamboo carried by the currents heading towards the bridge when the water in Sungai Neggiri began to rise.
"It is impossible for the flood water to destroy such a solid bridge.
"I believe drifting wood had restricted the water flow and caused the water to rise rapidly and build up immense pressure. The logs were also responsible for the destruction of nearby houses.
"You can even see the remainder of these logs and bamboo by the riverbank," he added.
Villager Hasinah Ibrahim, 43, said initially the drifting wood and debris around the bridge created a small island.
"We heard a loud sound at around 2.30 p.m. and saw the bridge which served as an important gateway come crashing down," she said.
The floods had destroyed properties, infrastructure and displaced over 104,000 people.
Nenggiri assemblyman Mat Yusoff Abdul Ghani said the floods had destroyed almost 90 per cent of the area.
"Rainfall was extraordinarily heavy and things got worse when the rain water could not be absorbed as forests were stripped of trees or planted with oil palm," he said.
His counterpart Galas assemblyman Ab Aziz Yusoff said almost 500 homes in Gua Musang were destroyed or washed away by the flood.
He also believed that land exploitation at the Titiwangsa Range, whether legal or illegal, caused the creeks connected to Sungai Nenggiri to overflow and this was among the factors for the abnormal flooding.
"What happens in the Titiwangsa Range is that our forests are stripped through farming and logging.
"From my observation up in the air, a large portion of the forest has been affected and I feel this is the reason why water rose so quickly and caused mud flow," he said.
Eleven days in Kelantan left both writers with a feeling of shock and disbelief over the mess left behind by the flood.
A house in Manik Urai, Kuala Krai, was torn down by a log that crashed against the structure and left it in pieces despite the house being situated 100 metres away from the riverbank. Moreover, the house and the riverbank were far away from forest area.
The home belonging to Rashid Daud, 47, his wife and eight children is now merely a pile of rubble.
Even worse, the RM10,000 renovation to the kitchen last November was a sheer waste.
"We don't know how this happened. It will cost us RM500 to move wood from the house. I don't know when our home can be rebuilt," he added.
CUT OFF FROM COMMUNICATION
Although the flood was over and aid are being distributed, the Orang Asli community living in Hulu Kelantan don't want to see such disaster recurring.
Head of the Orang Asli Development Department's Development Unit in Gua Musang Mohd Zainal Abu Bakar said over 1,300 heads of households have been declared as flood victims.
He said 113 heads of households were displaced by the tragedy while 1,191 were cut off due to land slides and collapsed bridge as a result of the floods.
"The flood destroyed 24 bridges and cut off 53 villages," he added.
According to Mohd Zainal, residents in the surrounding areas of Gua Musang had to depend on water based transportation to get to town and to send their children to school.
He said there were currently 138 posts or Orang Asli villages in Gua Musang.
Villagers blamed on logging and land exploitation for the flood.
However, they were not aware of whether the activities were done legally or illegally.
Ahmad Kamizi Jalil, 47, a resident of Bandar Lama Gua Musang, said the effects on the land, air and water in Hulu Kelantan were evident.
"It's a never ending story. We see it happening but we cannot do anything. It's like chasing shadows.
"What we hope is for the authorities to find a solution so that floods like this does not happen again," he added.
by Syed Iylia Al-Qadri and Nik Nurfaqih Nik Wil
This is the first of the four part series dwelling on the environmental destruction that contributed to the worst floods in Kelantan in three decades.
Sat Mar 14 2015
People are forced to take a longer route with an additional travel time of about an hour after the floods tore down the concrete bridge.
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