BUTTERWORTH (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Fifty victims. Eight fatalities, four people in the intensive care unit (ICU), 26 hospitalised, 12 treated and discharged.
That is the casualty count of the pre-dawn accident between two factory buses at the 147th kilometre of the North-South Expressway near the Juru toll plaza on Tuesday (Oct 24).
The two bus drivers were unhurt.
All the dead were women - one Malaysian and seven Indonesians, said Central Seberang Prai OCPD Assistant Commissioner Nik Ros Azhan Nik Abdul Hamid.
The Indonesians were identified as Faridah, 18; Sartika Pasaribu, 19; Wami Windasih, 19; Yeni, 20; Serlia, 21; Tumangger Resni, 22; and Titik Katinengsih, 23.
In the 5.50am crash, ACP Nik Ros said the first bus was carrying one Nepalese and 39 Indonesian women to work at the Sony EMCS factory in Prai Industrial Estate.
"The bus stopped at the left side of the expressway after suffering engine failure.
"Another bus ferrying 17 local women to Plexus Manufacturing in Bayan Lepas failed to avoid the stalled bus and struck it in the rear.
"The impact pushed both buses to the centre divider of the expressway," he said.
At Seberang Jaya Hospital, Indonesia's Penang consul-general Iwanshah Wibisono said the victims' families had been informed.
"We will arrange to send the bodies back to Indonesia," he said, adding that some of the victims were from Medan.
Penang Welfare and Caring Society Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said the state would also help the victims and their families at the hospital.
A spokesman for Sony EMCS said the company was saddened by the tragedy and would bear the cost of sending the bodies back to Indonesia.
Penang Health director M. Sukumar said in a statement that six of the injured were in serious condition.
State Health Committee chairman Afif Bahardin said 12 of the bus passengers had been discharged.
"Of the remaining victims, 24 are being warded at Seberang Jaya Hospital and two of them are in the hospital's ICU.
"One victim is being warded at Bukit Mertajam Hospital, three at Sungai Bakap Hospital and two in Penang Hospital's ICU," he said, adding that post-mortems on the victims were carried out at Seberang Jaya Hospital.
Dr Afif said the crash occurred at an accident-prone stretch and he would raise the matter of enhancing safety there with PLUS.
Malaysian Trades Union Congress Penang Division secretary K. Veeriah urged the authorities to hold employers responsible for such accidents.
"If employers ensure that factory buses are roadworthy, this tragedy could have been avoided," he said in a statement.