BENTONG: They sleep inside their lorries, use bottled water to clean themselves and rely on meals delivered by good samaritans from the nearby Karak town.
For a group of stranded lorry drivers, who have been forced to seek shelter at the Karak toll plaza since Dec 19 when a series of floods along the East Coast Expressway (LPT1) thwarted their planned journey to Gebeng, Kuantan, the unexpected turn of events also bring out kindness from strangers.
Lorry driver R. Kumaran, who described the experience as a “nightmare”, said he and four other lorry drivers were supposed to deliver goods to Gebeng, Kuantan before returning to Perak on Sunday.
However, the landslide and floods had thwarted their scheduled journey.
The 34-year-old from Ipoh said he and the other drivers were initially caught in a traffic standstill following the landslide along the highway near Bentong on Saturday (Dec 18) and only managed to leave the area about 9am the following day.
“After travelling for several kilometers, the sudden floods in Sungai Dua near Karak that inundated the highway forced us to stop again. We reached the Karak toll plaza at noon and the road was closed due to floods in Lanchang. Now, it has been five days.”
The drivers survived on instant noodles, bread and water on Sunday and Monday and could only alert their friends about their predicament when phone connection was restored on Tuesday.
“Karak was badly hit by the floods and even the phone services were down. Luckily, we managed to get some bread and instant noodles. On the third day (Tuesday), the phone services resumed and we managed to alert people in WhatsApp groups about our situation, mainly on the fact that we needed food,” he said when contacted.
The father-of-two said since news about their ordeal had gone viral, some residents in Karak had been providing them with home-cooked meals and bottled water.
“The water supply at the toilets near the toll plaza was disrupted because of the floods. So, we had to fill a huge plastic container with bottled water to shower and clean ourselves. We even wash our clothes and dry them outside the lorries.
“We were not prepared to be stranded for this long. If I turn back without delivering the goods, I won’t get paid for the trip. There are about 15 lorries parked near the toll plaza,” said Kumaran, who drives a three-tonne lorry.
He said the drivers spent their days on pieces of cardboards under the toll plaza and put their phone on charger inside the vehicles at night.
“This experience is the first for all of us. Even the toll area is deserted. Some of the drivers who live nearby also decided to park their lorries here and go home.
“On the first day, some workers here said the highway would open in several hours, which have now become days. I hope representatives from the highway authorities could come and meet us here to update on the situation. So far, nobody has come and meet us,” he said.
© New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd