A viral picture of some of the non-Muslim victims seeking shelter at the Taman Free School surau. Pix courtesy of NST Reader

GEORGE TOWN: For Sapno Tukijo, saving lives means more than the perception of close-minded individuals.

The bilal of the Taman Free School surau rescued 70 flood victims, non-Muslims who had been wading through chest-deep waters to try to find refuge from the floods which had engulfed the state.

Finding that the floodwaters were rising even more, Sapno told the flood victims they had found their refuge — the surau.

The victims were at first reluctant, unwilling to put the friendly bilal in any possible trouble, but as the situation became more and more desperate, and Sapno more and more insistent, they finally accepted.

Explaining what happened, Sapno said he saw the victims — villagers from a nearby village — fighting the raging floodwaters along Lengkuk P. Ramlee about 2am on Sunday.

The 50-year-old said he tried to help the victims, who had been searching for refuge at the nearest temple, by trying a rope to two electricity poles so that they could cross the road.

“However, the effort was futile as the water surge became too fast and it had reached chest level, which became too risky for the victims to wade through,” he said.


Taman Free School surau’s bilal, Sapno Tukijo. Pix by DANIAL SAAD/ NSTP

Sapno said he then offered the victims shelter at the surau.

“Initially, they refused to follow me to the surau as they thought it would create an issue with certain people, seeing non-Muslims staying in the surau. I explained that it was okay for them to stay there and they finally agreed... they followed me to the surau,” he said.

A picture of some of the victims resting on the second floor of the surau soon went viral on social media, but Sapno said he does not care if anyone were to condemn his actions.

“As long as their lives are saved (I don’t care). I would be left feeling guilty if I had just ignored their plight,” he said.

Sapno said some of the victims had left their homes in such a hurry that they did not grab any extra clothing or blankets.

“My wife and I gave them some telekung to be used as blankets as we saw them shivering,” he said.

Sapno’s “guests”, however, left the surau later the same day, having sufficiently rested and not wanting to be a burden to the bilal and his wife.

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