Tragedy on the Slopes


Malaysia has suffered three major landslides in the last week. The first was a landslide that killed two young sisters in their sleep and damaged a couple of houses. Then on Thursday, there was a spectacular landslide affecting the car park of a major bank located in a posh commercial district of Kuala Lumpur. In this incident, no one was killed but 11 cars were seriously damaged or destroyed. Casualties and deaths may have occurred if the landslide was just 15 minutes later when a lot of workers would have finished work for the day and would have been in the car park on their way home. Finally, just this Saturday morning at about 4 in the morning, a large part of the hillslope at Bukit Antarabangsa just gave way, sweeping as much as 14 houses on its lower slopes. This time, as many as 4 have died and some are still missing. This latest incident is just a stone throw away from the site of the Highland Towers tragedy of 1993 when a highrise condominium came crashing down due to a landslide and killed 48.

Heavy rain was a major factor. The monsoon rains in Malaysia used to be light to moderate heavy but could continue for a few days. Today due to global warming and local changes in the micro-climate, we seem to be experiencing shorter but far more heavy and violent downpours.

The second factor has been the continued building on unstable and steep hillslopes and hilltops despite numerous calls, promises and directions from politicians to stop allowing those types of developments in the wake of previous landslide tragedies. After yesterday’s landslide, the Prime Minister again called for no more developments on risky hillslopes. Will this time be different? Will we learn our lesson or forget it within a week and return to business as usual?

This series of incidences also hit close to home. If you look at the first photo below and specifically at the half-buried car on the left………. well, my wife had parked our car just one parking lot to the left and in front. God was gracious and I got away with nothing more than a mud covered car, a broken tail-light and a very excited wife. But 11 cars were either seriously damaged or destroyed.

I do hope that this latest in a string of landslide tragedies will finally put a stop to developments on unstable and steep slopes. Unfortunately, many Malaysians would consider me an optimist rather than a realist cause they have seen this too many times before.

Landslide in Bank Parking Lot

Closer view of damaged cars

Major landslide in Bukit Antarabangsa
Houses damaged in Landslide.

All Photos by The Star Online

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