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    Jan 07, 2015

    'Disaster tourists' hamper aid


    A LARGE number of people are converging in Kelantan, bringing welcome aid to the flood victims. But there are also a large number of other people coming in - and they are not welcome.

    These are the sightseers who want to see for themselves the scenes of flood devastation, and who post selfies and other "I was there" pictures on their Facebook pages or Twitter timelines.

    These "disaster tourists" are adding to the woes of the people by coming in large groups and clogging up the affected areas with their vehicles.

    They are also getting in the way of service providers and volunteers who are trying desperately to reach the victims.

    Those distributing aid to the flood victims here say their work has been hampered by these "sightseers", who "choke up roads with their cars".

    A military officer, who wanted to be known only as Yan, said roads in Manek Urai town were congested with casual visitors, when priority should be given to vehicles bringing in aid.

    "To bring 20 to 30 cars for a visit to the area only worsens the situation," he said.

    "The roads are already congested with victims' cars as most are covered in mud and debris. These tourists shouldn't be driving into the rural areas nor be there at all," the officer said.

    The bad traffic flow left volunteer doctor Beh Xi Chin and his team stuck on a bridge for almost three hours.

    "People here have lost everything," he said. "There are some who are doing everything they can to help these people, while there are others who are taking advantage of the situation."

    Dr Beh hopes the authorities will help control the "unwanted congestion".

    Volunteers from a Malacca-based non-government organisation echoed this sentiment, saying they were shocked with "the mentality of some people".

    "Villagers from other areas came to the affected areas to take away supplies that were meant for the victims," one of them claimed.

    Eighth Army Brigade commander Azmi Yahya confirmed that there were large numbers of "unwanted tourists", causing traffic problems.

    "Our work continues, but the process is being slowed because of this," he said.