Landslide off Genting: Death toll rises to 21, search continues for next 24 hours

Civil defence personnel conducting search and rescue operations at the site of the landslide in Batang Kali, Selangor. PHOTO: REUTERS
The landslide was about one acre wide and it hit the campsite, said the director of Selangor's Fire and Rescue Department. PHOTO: SELANGOR FIRE AND RESCUE DEPARTMENT
The landslide occurred at Father's Organic Farm, a campsite in Batang Kali in Selangor. PHOTO: SELANGOR FIRE AND RESCUE DEPARTMENT
Cars buried by the landslide at Father’s Organic Farm in Batang Kali, Selangor. PHOTO: REUTERS
Personnel from multiple fire stations, as well as the Special Tactical Operation and Rescue Team, have been deployed to the site. PHOTO: @APMTWITER/TWITTER
Police setting up a roadblock to redirect traffic away from the site of the landslide in Batang Kali, Selangor, on Dec 16, 2022. PHOTO: SIN CHEW DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Search and rescue workers carrying out the body of a landslide victim. PHOTO: AFP
An ambulance heading towards the site of the landslide in Batang Kali, Selangor, on Dec 16, 2022. PHOTO: SIN CHEW DAILY
Malaysian Health Minister Zaliha Mustafa (right) visiting victims of the landslide in a hospital, on Dec 16, 2022. PHOTO: MALAYSIA MINISTRY OF HEALTH

BATANG KALI, Selangor – At least 21 people were killed and around 12 others feared trapped after a landslide hit a campsite near Genting Highlands in the early hours of Friday, the Malaysian authorities said.

Search and rescue operations will continue for the next 24 hours, Selangor Fire and Rescue Department director Norazam Khamis said on Friday evening.

Over 700 personnel had spent hours scouring the muddy terrain for survivors.

Three Singaporeans were found safe in the search and rescue mission, Malaysia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Saturday morning.

“The Malaysian Government is working swiftly to ensure all affected in the tragedy be given immediate assistance,”
the statement added.

Campers told reporters that they heard loud noises at around 2am that sounded like an explosion and trees being snapped, and many scrambled to escape from their tents in the dark.

Mr Tee Yeow King, a Singapore permanent resident, said he shielded his wife and two children with his body after he heard a loud rumbling sound as he was about to fall asleep.

“The sound got louder and it was nothing like I had heard before. It sounded like trees were being ripped apart and rocks crumbling,” he told The Straits Times after leaving the campsite.

By the time the sun was in the sky on Friday, the three different campsites at Father’s Organic Farm in Batang Kali, on the outskirts of capital Kuala Lumpur, had turned into a giant muddy ground as tonnes of earth had been displaced.

The authorities said the earth fell from an estimated height of 30m and covered an area of about 0.4ha.

Search and rescue workers on site, some with rescue dogs, were frantically digging in places where they hoped to find survivors.

The vehicles of the campers had been shoved together and partly buried under mud and fallen trees.

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, after visiting the rescue operations centre near the disaster site, said families of those who perished in the landslide will receive RM10,000 (S$3,070).

The families of survivors will receive RM1,000 each.

“We will expedite the assistance,” Datuk Seri Anwar said.

The Ministry of Local Government Development said on Twitter that 61 people had been rescued, and among them were three Singaporeans.

Local Government Development Minister Nga Kor Ming said the campsite was operating illegally without a licence.

He said the site operators had obtained permission only for farming organic vegetable crops.

No approval for camping activities was given by the local authorities.

“I have instructed 155 local councils to check and vacate all the campsites along the high-risk areas, including waterfall, river and hillside areas,” he said.

Mr Nga added that the penalties may amount to a RM50,000 fine and a prison term of up to three years.

Father's Organic Farm offers eco-tourism packages including educational guides on organic vegetable farming. PHOTO: FATHER’S ORGANIC FARM/FACEBOOK

Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail, who visited the site, has asked for a halt to all camping activities until further notice.

“We are asking all organisers of camping sites around here not to accept any more visitors for the time being,” he told reporters, noting that camping activities are popular during the school holidays.

Among those confirmed to have died are three children – including a five-year-old boy – seven women and two men, said Selangor Chief Minister Amirudin Shari.

Hulu Selangor district police chief Suffian Abdullah said that most of the 94 victims were local residents, including workers at the campsite.

A victim resting amid rescue and evacuation operations following the landslide. PHOTO: REUTERS

Among those who were at the campsite were 20 teachers from Chinese primary school Mun Choong in Kuala Lumpur, and their families, Malaysia’s Berita Harian daily quoted an official from the school as saying.

At least five teachers were believed to be missing.

The campsite is located in Jalan Batang Kali-Jalan Genting Highlands, less than 15km away from the peak of Genting Highlands, a popular travel destination that houses a casino and theme park.

The camp, located about 4.5km or a 10-minute drive from Gohtong Jaya, a town below the Genting Highlands peak, offers eco-tourism packages, including educational guides on organic vegetable farming.

Roads to the disaster site have been shut to allow easier access for trucks ferrying tractors and personnel for rescue operations.

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The death toll from the landslide has risen to 16, with at least 17 still missing. PHOTO: SELANGOR FIRE AND RESCUE DEPARTMENT

Minister of Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad said initial investigations showed that the landslide at the farm was due to a slope failure involving 450,000 cubic m of soil.

“This involves an area which is 500m in length, 200m wide and 8m deep,” he told reporters at the landslide site.

Personnel from multiple fire stations, as well as the Special Tactical Operation and Rescue Team, have also been deployed to the site for search and rescue operations.

On Tuesday, the Fire Department’s director-general Mohammad Hamdan Wahid advised Malaysians and the local municipal authorities to temporarily stop recreational activities, especially in high-risk areas such as mountains, hills, rivers and beaches, during the monsoon season.

Malaysian Works Minister Alexander Nanta Linggi said on Thursday the ministry is closely monitoring federal roads prone to high-risk flooding that can lead to slope failures in the current wet season.

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