December 19, 2022
KUALA LUMPUR – The Malaysian authorities are exhausting all options, including radar, as hopes are fading that they will locate survivors among the nine victims still missing after last Friday’s landslide that killed at least 24 at a campsite near Genting Highlands.
Selangor’s state fire and rescue chief Norazam Khamis said ground penetrating radar (GPR) that can detect buried objects had been deployed on Sunday to help with the search operations in Batang Kali, a hilly area about 50km north of Kuala Lumpur.
“We are using whatever resources we have to help locate the remaining victims. Due to the uneven surface at the scene, it’s hard to mobilise the GPR, but we need it as it uses pulses of radar to image the subsurface,” he said.
“It makes it possible to measure the dimensions, depth and thickness of targets, and data is provided quickly and we can cover a large site… It is easier and effective in detecting what’s underneath the soil.”
Because of the uneven surface of the soil, rescuers are using wood planks to ease the mobilisation of the equipment, he added.
Eight excavators were being used to dig through more than a metre of debris in some places.
Datuk Norazam added that tracker dogs from the fire and rescue department as well as the police and the army were involved in the search and more would be brought in if needed.
He said last Saturday that the chances of finding more survivors were slim, given the lack of oxygen and the weight of mud pressing down on the site.
Over 700 personnel across various government agencies have been deployed after 450,000 cubic metres of earth fell from a height of 30m onto the campsite area of about 0.4ha in the early hours of last Friday when the campers were sleeping in their tents.
Police have taken statements from the operator and two employees of the campsite where 94 people, including families with young children and teachers from a primary school, were staying.
A total of 61 people have been rescued.
Hulu Selangor district police chief Suffian Abdullah said three people from Father’s Organic Farm, where the campsite is located, were questioned last Saturday afternoon.
“We do not rule out the possibility of calling other individuals to help with the investigation,” he told reporters at the site of the tragedy on Sunday, where the search resumed in the morning after a break in the wee hours.
In a Facebook post on Sunday, the owners of Father’s Organic Farm apologised to everyone affected by the tragedy and offered their sympathies to the victims and their families.
“We humbly bow to everyone affected by this tragedy,” the owners said in the post, which also paid tribute to the rescuers.
Local Government Development Minister Nga Kor Ming said earlier that Father’s Organic Farm was licensed only for farming and not camping.
But there has been confusion over the legality of setting up a campsite on private land, with Selangor’s state government saying there are no specific guidelines to regulate such activities.
“Camping became popular during the Covid-19 pandemic. It is a new activity and a booming one too,” said Mr Hee Loy Sian, who is in charge of tourism and environment in the state government.
He added that the state government would meet the Tourism Ministry to draw up regulations to be enforced by district councils.
The Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change Ministry is also awaiting a detailed report that can be tabled to the Cabinet for further action.
“It is too early for any speculation. The study is ongoing. We will get the report soon and the details will be shared later,” Minister Nik Nazmi Ahmad said last Saturday evening.