Malaysia's worst flood in 100 years destroys over 60,000 homes

Heavy rains and overflowing rivers have flooded hundreds of towns and villages in southern Malaysia, killing two people and displacing more than 60,000, officials said Thursday.

The two deaths were the first since Sunday, when torrential downpours caused rivers and dams to overflow in the states of Johor, Malacca, Pahang and Negeri Sembilan. The floods have destroyed crops and cut off roads, power lines and rail services.

Two men were found dead Thursday by an army rescue team in Johor, said Che Moin Umar, head of disaster management at the Civil Defense Department. He had no other details about the deaths and couldn't say if anyone has been injured.

The Drainage and Irrigation Department has described the flooding as the worst in Johor in a century.

Johor opened nearly 300 flood relief centers on high ground to house 53,000 residents evacuated from their homes across all eight districts, Che Moin said. In the other three states, more than 7,500 people were forced to leave their homes.

Che Moin said the government will allocate money to help flood victims, although the amount has yet to be announced. Last December, 100 million ringgit (US$29.2 million; Ђ22.1 million) in aid was given to help victims of the monsoon in northern Malaysia.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi "has asked us to expedite all assistance to the victims," Che Moin said, adding that relief teams were flying food and other supplies from Kuala Lumpur to areas largely cut off by the floods.

Utility company Tenaga Nasional turned off 236 power distribution stations in Johor "for safety and security reasons," spokesman Sidek Kamisul said, "because a water and electricity mix is such a bad idea."

The national railway, KTM Berhad, has suspended all services to the southern state until further notice, railway spokeswoman Renny Shariza Embi said. Trains to neighboring Singapore also remained suspended, she said.

On Tuesday, Singapore recorded at 366 millimeters (14.41 inches) of rain in 24 hours _ its third highest rainfall in 75 years, according to local media. The downpour caused floods and small mudslides in the north and center of the island, but no casualties were reported.

Johor's farmers estimated losses of crops, fertilizer and machinery worth millions of ringgit, which could cause a spike in vegetable prices, according to the Malaysian Vegetable Farmers Association. The local farms supply Johor's markets and export to Singapore, reports AP.

The meteorological department said the rainy weather is expected to continue in southern Malaysia through the end of the week.

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