Najib Razak is scheduled to travel to hard-hit Kelantan state Saturday to oversee the flood situation, which has led to mass evacuations in four east coast states in peninsular Malaysia.
"I'm deeply concerned by the floods and am returning to see the situation for myself. My thoughts and prayers are with all who are suffering," he wrote on Twitter.
In recent days, Najib has come under fire after being photographed playing golf with U.S. President Barack Obama at the sidelines of the president's Christmas holiday in Hawaii. Local reports suggest Najib began his family holiday Dec. 20 without any announcement to the public.
"While I have been away, I have been in constant contact with the National Security Council and the National Disaster Management and Relief Committee, who have assured me that they are doing everything they can to help those who have been affected,” he said in a Prime Ministry Office statement released Friday.
"But I want to see the situation for myself and be with the people."
Najib is set to chair a meeting in which he will receive briefings from the Council, the Committee, and state and local emergency responders, according to national news agency Bernama.
In the statement, a government spokesperson said the premier had received daily flood-related updates while abroad, deciding on the need to return “following recent reports that the situation had continued to worsen.”
The largest number of evacuees has been recorded in Pahang state, increasing to 35,700 on Friday, according to the Malaysian Insider news website. Of the displaced, nearly 20,000 are currently sheltered at 44 relief centers in the state capital of Kuantan.
In Kelantan, the number of evacuees decreased slightly from almost 35,000 to around 32,000 as six districts experienced an improvement in the flooding situation.
Meanwhile, New Years celebrations have been canceled across the country.
The sultan of Perak state, Nazrin Shah, ordered that all mosques hold additional ceremonies after the Friday prayers to pray for an improvement in the region.
On Thursday, Federal Territories Minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor defended Najib by telling a press conference at the ministry's Christmas open house, "Some say PM does not bother, ministers don't bother... all this is propaganda and slander."
While Kuala Lumpur has not been hard hit by flooding, Mayor Ahamd Phesal Talib has announced that the City Hall rescue unit, Fire and Rescue Department and other government agencies are ready to assist the public in the case of a natural disaster.
"We have enough personnel to face the flood situation. We will utilize the assets we have in the best way possible to provide immediate help to the flood victims," he told Bernama.
On Tuesday, nearly 100 people – including around 60 tourists – were stranded at a national park in Pahang that recorded its highest rainfall since 1971, and later rescued by helicopters and boats.
The tropical Southeast Asian nation, particularly Malaysia’s peninsular northeast, experiences flooding-related incidents during the Northeast Monsoon season every year.