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2 Million Malaysians Without Water

April 20, 1998

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) _ Tableware, underwear _ if it’s disposable, it’s ``in″ in Malaysia, where water supplies were cut off to nearly 2 million people Monday because of the worst drought in decades.

With reservoirs critically low, the country began a second phase of water rationing Monday. Malaysians faced severe water cuts that could last through October with resignation, humor and some frustration.

For weeks, 600,000 residents of the capital have had water only intermittently, forcing people with empty buckets to wait in the streets as it rained or when water trucks passed by. Phase two, affecting 1.2 million more people, began Monday.

Front yards and hallways throughout the Klang Valley were stacked with large water jugs. Some residents spent the weekend relishing their final loads of laundry, long showers and dish washing.

Essential items on shopping lists included disposable underwear, paper plates, plastic cutlery, perfume, deodorant and mineral water.

Shoppers swarmed to stores that sell plastic storage bins, causing many shops to run out and others to increase prices.

Scuffles have broken out in several shops in Petaling Jaya, a suburb of Kuala Lumpur. Thick crowds formed in front of retail stores, spilling into the street and blocking traffic, as customers awaited delivery of new goods, the Sunday Star reported.

The government-backed New Straits Times encouraged readers to take dredge up old hits with new twists and sing ``It Never Rains In Southern California (here too!),″ and ``Kiss the Rain (or anyone who makes it rain in the right areas).″

Fruit growers anticipate crop yields in the country’s 647,000 acres of orchards and plantations will be drastically reduced. Last year, Malaysia exported about 78,000 tons of fruit valued at $29 million.

Restaurants, laundromats, florists and other businesses around Klang Valley fear they’ll be shut down.

Chong Kim Keong, who has run his New Cui Yan Restaurant in Petaling Jaya for weeks without running water, told The Star that business was down.

``My customers are afraid they might be consuming dirty food,″ said Chong.

No businesses, except hospitals and fire departments, will be exempt from the water cuts, the government said.

Concerned that tourism will drop as a result of the drought, the Malaysian Association of Hotels has appealed to the government to spare hotels from rationing.

Some hotels have slashed rates to appeal to locals with special ``bath-time″ packages.

The five-star Legend Hotel offered a ``Water World″ night for $27.

``It’s really just so people can get on with life,″ Hotel Association spokeswoman Cyndy Chung said.

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