At the risk of stating the obvious, haven't we heard all this before? It is not our typical Malaysian culture to react (or over-react, as the case may be) only after disaster has befallen us? Have we forgotten Highland Towers? Did we also forget that last year a landslide at Kg. Pasir Ulu Kelang buried a squatter settlement?
Our former Prime Minister coined the famous phrase `Melayu mudah lupa'. I would suggest that we modify the phrase to `Orang Malaysia mudah lupa'. Because, I can guarantee you, a few years on, the Bukit Antarabangsa landslide will just become another historical event. The hillside developments will continue and we will never learn our lesson.
Erecting buildings or structures on hillsides or slopes, in itself, should not be a problem. The world is not flat and we cannot totally avoid construction on hills or mountain sides. Countries like Japan, that has more mountainous regions than flat ones, have been building houses, highways and bridges on slopes for years. There are always engineering solutions to slope construction problems but if we fail to observe the rules and take short-cut measures, then disasters will happen. I believe we already have the necessary regulations and legislations relating to hillside construction. There is also no shortage of geotechnical engineers or soil experts in Malaysia either. So why do we continue to experience such misfortune? I guess there is no need for me to answer this one, you guys probably know the answer already.
Hillside houses and condominiums are built (and will continue to be built) because there is a demand. The main draw of such dwellings is the breathtaking view. I was in Penang last week and while driving on the Batu Ferringhi road, I can see many upmarket condos being built on the steep hillside. I can bet you, the view of the sea from one of the high-altitude units is `worth a million bucks'.
Misty view of the Kuala Lumpur skyline as seen from Bukit Antarabangsa
When my family and I travel to KL, we usually put up at my brother-in-law's place at Bukit Antarabangsa. Indeed we were there on Saturday when the landslide occured. Early that morning, my wife received a phone call from another relative telling us of the event and worrying if we were trapped. We quickly had a look outside to determine where exactly the slope failure had occurred. Thankfully, the access road to my brother-in-law's house was not affected.
Unfortunately, those living on the upper reaches of Bukit Antarabangsa were trapped and had no way out. All of them were later asked to vacate their homes because the electricity supply had been cut off. Because there was no vehicular access, they had to trudge out on foot through wet and slippery uphill tracks created by the rescue authorities.
I personally know three persons who had to make that trek. One is a former colleague, another is an old schoolmate and the third is my own cousin. The sad thing was that my cousin's wife just gave birth a few weeks ago (masih dalam hari lagi, kata orang Melayu). Mother and baby had to be assisted out of the area.
I feel very sad for all those who had to endure the hardship and my condolences to the victims. And for the tragedy to happen close to Hari Raya Korban... May Allah grant all of you patience to face this trial and sacrifice.
Update @ 21:15 Hours :
For a first hand account of the incident, read Dr. Rafick's blog entry -> here.