There is at least some good news coming out of the unprecedented flooding in Malaysia and Thailand this week: for some stranded cats and dogs, help is on the way.
Volunteers at the S.I. Home Shelter in Shah Alam, Malaysia, are heading out into the flood-ravaged areas of Kemaman and Pekan to rescue dogs, cats, and other animals displaced by the floods, according to a report in The Star, a Malaysian news website. So far, the flooding has killed 24 people and forced the evacuation of 160,000 people. The Malaysian government is calling it the worst in 30 years.
While relief efforts for affected humans have soared, animal lovers have also formed groups to save their four-legged friends in the Malaysian provinces of Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang and Perak, according to The Star. Along with physically going out and getting stranded animals, S.I. Home Shelter volunteer Muhammad Razeef Che Samah said his group has collected more than 2,000 pounds of dog and cat food to be distributed to pet rescue centers, both from donations and from the Kiko Food Bank.
“Once we reach the affected areas, we will distribute the kibbles to the rescue teams there and help to relocate the animals which are in danger,” he told The Star. You can see more photos of the S.I Home Shelter’s animal rescue efforts here.
It’s not currently known how many animals were killed by the floods. While some of the animals rescued were strays, others were household pets left behind during the widespread evacuations. Indeed, pets and livestock have been called the “silent victims” of flooding, often forgotten in the chaos of evacuation and looked for later.
Hanging around in flood-ridden areas is not great for health, human or animal. That’s because when the rain stops, the standing water becomes stagnant, forming bacteria and increasing the risk of disease spread. This has already begun in Malaysia: so far, 1,220 cases of flood-related infections have been documented in Pahang, which is just one of the affected areas. Flooding has the potential to increase the transmission of diseases, particularly water-borne illnesses like typhoid fever, chlorea, and hepatitis A. Floods can also indirectly lead to an increase in mosquito-borne diseases like malaria, as standing waters are ideal habitats for breeding mosquito populations.
The most common reason humans and animals get sick during floods is because if they are stranded, they can quickly lose access to clean drinking water. The government of Singapore has pledged to help with that, donating $100,000 to Malaysia’s version of the Red Cross, and distributing multiple water purification units to increase access to drinking water.
CNN has some good footage of Malaysia’s current flooding, along with meteorologist Derek Van Dam’s explanation of the weather pattern driving the heavy rainfall, below:
December is already the peak of rainy season in Thailand and Malaysia, thanks to the strengthening of the northeast monsoon. As Van Dam explains, every year strong high pressure develops over Eastern Europe and China, strengthening northeasterly winds from the South China Sea, which bring heavy rainfall over Malaysia and southern Thailand.
This year, however, was worse than normal. AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Jim Andrews said the areas have had “way more [rainfall] than they would normally,” noting that rain has been pouring over the area for the last two weeks.
Scientists say climate change, a phenomenon caused by greenhouse gas emissions, makes precipitation events more extreme and increases the likelihood that those events will occur in some areas of the world. That’s because when carbon dioxide is emitted from burning fossil fuels and destroying tropical forests, it traps heat in the atmosphere, raising the planet’s average temperature. A warmer atmosphere is able to hold more moisture, meaning more water vapor is available to fall as rain, snow, or hail when storms occur.
That finding has been confirmed by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center, the National Climate Assessment, and multiple peer-reviewed scientific papers.