Landslide at Malaysia highway caused by overflow of water catchment area

The landslide is blocking all lanes in both directions on the Karak Highway.
The landslide is blocking all lanes in both directions on the Karak Highway.PHOTO: TWITTER/FARIDNOR

BENTONG (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The landslide at Karak Highway was caused by an overflow of a water catchment area, not logging on a nearby hill, said the Fire and Rescue Department.

Deputy Director-General (Operations) Datuk Soiman Jahid said the heavy rain over the last few days had caused the catchment to overflow, picking up sediment and mud which became a landslide.

"The overflow also picked up garbage, logs and large rocks from the hill," he told the media during a briefing at the site.

Mr Soiman said the Department conducted a preliminary aerial inspection to assess the soil structure and water flow.

"I saw an area that had some logging, which appeared quite orderly," he said.

He said there was an area where the trees had been cleared. There was also more water in the catchment area.

"If it rains heavily again, there will be another overflow," he warned.

Asked if the landslide was caused by the logging, Mr Soiman disagreed, saying the primary cause was the overflowing catchment.

He said the department had instructed the Works Ministry and ANIH management to remove the rocks and logs spotted on the hilltop to reduce the damage, should another landslide occur.

However, Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam Malaysia (PEKA) president, Puan Seri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil said that she felt that the landslide was due to uncontrolled logging, according to a Bernama report on Thursday.

"It is understood that the logging activities started in late October, 2013 and then the encroachers wantonly cleared more land at the Lentang Recreational Forest in the name of development," Shariffa Sabrina said. "When we knew about this, PEKA sent an official letter to the Pahang state government on Jan 20, last year, expressing our concern over possible adverse effects of the uncontrolled logging activities."

Shariffa Sabrina said despite the series of protest, uncontrolled logging remained rampant, causing more forest land being stripped of vegetation, hence causing the massive mudslide on the Karak Highway.

She said the problem could even be more serious if illegal clearing of forests in Bukit Tinggi and Lentang Recreational Forest area were allowed to continue.

She added that the downpour and landslide at 6.30pm on Wednesday also caused the Tanah Aina Fareena area to be under more than one meter of flood waters, and that it was the first such incident to occur at the eco-tourism getaway since it opened 12 years ago.

As of 2pm on Thursday, all lanes of the highway - which links Kuala Lumpur to Kuantan in Pahang - remained closed, with clearing works at KM 52.4 of Karak Highway, primarily on the Kuala Lumpur-bound lane.