RANTAU PANJANG: Sungai Golok here is drying up due to the unrelenting heatwave – ironically, though, this is allowing scorched residents to safely enter the now-shallow river and indulge in water activities to cool down.
Checks by NST along the river last night showed dozens of people taking the opportunity to swim or play with sand along the riverbank. Some are even able to easily cross the river to enter Thailand .
Amidst the carnival-like atmosphere, sand is clearly visible on the river bed.
Nor Balkish Khairul, 12, who was spotted with her friends at the river, said they had been going to the riverbank since Thursday after being informed that the water had receded.
"We came after 5.30pm to join other villagers to swim in the river. It allowed us to cool off from the hot weather.
"The number of visitors increased (on Friday) compared to yesterday. News of the river drying up had spread fast," she added.
The Year Six pupil of SK Sri Rantau Panjang 1 said that the atmosphere is like a ‘water festival’, with large groups of people enjoying picnics by the river and taking dips in the water.
Another visitor, who only wanted to be known as Zack, said he brought his two children, aged 4 and 6, to play at the river while waiting for his wife to finish work.
"Three years ago, Sungai Golok dried up completely following a dry spell. It's happening again.
"Villagers living in the surrounding area have started to come here since last week, and I believe that after the news spread on social media, people outside Rantau Panjang will also come here," said the 38-year-old trader from Kampung Pasir.
Zack said that the hot weather had caused the river level to drop to between 0.5m and 1m since last week.
In May 2016, the ‘water festival’ lasted for almost a week following the long dry spell that hit the state.