Two killed, one injured in Penang landslide

VIDEO: THE STAR/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK

GEORGE TOWN (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, BERNAMA) - The death toll in the landslide at a construction site in Paya Terubong, Penang on Friday (Oct 19) has been revised to two as a search and rescue operation continues for the missing.

Earlier, it was reported that three people were killed and 12 missing in Friday’s incident. 

Four containers used to house workers at the construction site were covered in the landslide at about 1pm and workers were reportedly buried under the earth.

Penang Fire and Rescue Department director Saadon Moktar said the victims were believed to be inside the containers when the landslide occurred.

Mr Saadon said so far, rescuers have found the body of a 35-year-old Bangladeshi and a 19-year-old Indonesian, while a Myanmar national was found alive with a broken leg. The first body was recovered at 3.40pm. 

“All the victims were found under the containers. There are six containers at the site besides several wooden shacks,” he said.

It is feared more than 10 victims could have been buried alive.

An Indonesian construction worker, who only wished to be known as Endo, 36, said three of his family members from Sulawesi were trapped. 

“Three of them, in their 30s, were inside and I got to know that one of them was trapped in a container.  I pray for their safety,” he said.

More than 100 personnel from the police force, fire and rescue service and civil defence force are involved in the  ongoing search and rescue operation. 

A group of foreigners believed to be family members and friends of the landslide victims began arriving at the project site gate from 3.30pm to obtain the latest updates of the incident.

Indonesian labourer Kasran Rajuni hoped his home village friends who were feared buried in the landslide were found safe.

Mr Kasran, 28, of Kota Bau-Bau, North Sulawesi said he last met his friends about two months ago. “I was shocked when told of the incident and I immediately rushed here from Batu Maung, he told Bernama.

It has been raining intermittently on Penang island since Thursday and conditions in the landslide area are extremely muddy. 

Photos being shared on social media show parts of the disaster where mangled cargo containers, possibly used as site offices, storerooms or workers’ quarters, are seen lying on their sides. 

The landslide took place at the construction zone of the paired road from Bandar Baru Ayer Itam to Bukit Jambul, which has been beset with problems. 

Last Thursday, 14 concrete beams, 25m-long each, crashed down from an elevated section of the highway. No injuries were reported.

Penang Forum, a coalition of public-interest civil society groups, said on Friday it is upset over the failure of the authorities to prevent the landslide today. Forum member Dr Lim Mah Hui said nature served its signal last week when the concrete beams crashed onto a hill slope but no action was taken.

“We do not know what actually happened here but certainly it shows the risk involved when you tamper with nature. Now we know that our monitoring capacity is so weak and this should serve as a wake-up call for the state government and they should not continue to say it is a construction site accident after this,” Dr Lim told reporters after visiting the scene of the landslide.

A similar incident occurred in Penang nearly a year ago on Oct 21, 2017, when a landslide at a hillside construction site in Tanjung Bungah claimed  the lives of 11 workers.