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2022 marred by Batang Kali landslide tragedy, nationwide floods

2022 marred by Batang Kali landslide tragedy, nationwide floods

KUALA LUMPUR: As 2022 comes to a close, many Malaysians are still struggling to comprehend the recent landslide that hit a popular camping ground in Gohtong Jaya and claimed the lives of 31 people.

On Dec 16, the entire country woke to news that a landslide had occurred along the Batang Kali-Genting Highlands road in at around 2 am, burying nearly a hundred campers at three campsites belonging to Father’s Organic Farm.

There was initial confusion over the number of victims, with 94 people being cited in initial reports, before being revised down to 92 people exactly a week later.

First responders who rushed to the scene at 3 am managed to rescue 61 victims and when the search and rescue operation was suspended at night on the first day, they managed to recover the bodies of 21 other victims. An estimated 12 other victims remained missing.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, and his newly founded Unity Government Cabinet, responded immediately, and Anwar visited the incident site on the very same day, announcing an immediate initial aid of RM10,000 to families of each victim killed in the landslide, and RM1,000 to survivors.

Messages of condolences poured in from countries abroad, including close neighbour Singapore and far-flung Egypt. Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong reached out to Anwar to convey his condolences and sympathy to all affected victims, and expressed his sorrow over the loss of so many lives.

Many Malaysians followed the search and rescue operation closely, as heart-wrenching details of the tragedy, especially of how rescuers found the bodies of a mother and her child embraced together, and later on a man hugging his dog, began to emerge.

When the search and rescue operation ended on the ninth day with the discovery of the body of the last missing victim, an 11-year-old boy, Malaysians took to social media to express their appreciation for the tireless effort and dedication shown by the rescuers.

The operation, spearheaded by the Malaysian Fire and Rescue Department, with assistance from the Royal Malaysian Police, the Malaysian Armed Forces, the Special Malaysia Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (SMART) and the Civil Defence Force (CDF), was challenging due to heavy rain and muddy conditions.

The final toll of the landslide stands at 31 dead and 61 survivors.

The Batang Kali landslide was the 23rd reported incident of its kind this year. Three other landslides – in Taman Bukit Permai 2, Ampang, Selangor; Jalan Bukit Nenas, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah; and Blue Valley, Kampung Raja, Cameron Highlands – that hit in March, July and November also claimed the lives of seven people.

Unfortunately, the Batang Kali landslide is not the only major disaster this year, as on Dec 18, major floods hit Terengganu, Kelantan, Perak and Johor, causing the evacuation of thousands of affected residents.

As of Dec 23, six people have died due to floods, including a two-year-old girl in Besut, Terengganu and five reported deaths in Kelantan, including the tragic deaths of three sisters, aged 20 to 27, who were in the midst of evacuating when they electrocuted while crossing the front of a neighbouring house in Tumpat.

At the beginning of this year, residents in Klang Valley grappled with flash floods that hit areas not known to flood, resulting in 8,583 people to be evacuated.

CDF Disaster Management and Operations Division director Col Sharudin Md Zain told Bernama that they received 63 reports of flash flooding throughout the country, with Sabah being the highest with 12 cases.

Johor is next with 11 cases, Kedah (10), Selangor (10), Melaka (five), Sarawak (four), Perak (four), Negeri Sembilan (three), Kelantan (two) and one each for Terengganu and Perlis.

In fact, flash floods seem to have become a somewhat monthly occurrence, with the first recorded flash flood of the year being on Jan 2 in Lahad Datu, Sabah, followed by Kuala Langat, Selangor on the next day.

On March 7 and 8, Kuala Lumpur was hit so badly that several main roads were closed, and in June, several states were hit, including Gurun subdistrict in Kedah, Ipoh in Perak, Melaka Tengah in Melaka, and Kuala Langat in Selangor.

On July 4, a flash flood worsened, inundating areas in Baling and Kupang in Kedah, killing three poeple, forcing the evacuation of 1,490 residents and destroying 25 homes completely. Floods would hit Baling once again around three weeks later, on July 28.

The south of the Peninsular was not spared as well, with Johor Bahru and Skudai bearing the brunt of floods on Aug 2 and 21 respectively. Just three days shy of the 65th National Day, several areas in Taiping, Perak were hit, and then Baling was flooded for the third time in the year on Sept 6.

Throughout September and October, bad weather conditions ensured that flash floods hit areas in Johor Bahru, Melaka, Perak, Perlis and Penang, which suffered the indignity of having its international airport affected.

In November, flash floods returned to hit the capital and areas in Selangor, including the federal administrative city of Putrajaya.

The final month of the year witnessed flash floods in Batu Kikir and Kuala Pilah, Negeri Sembilan, and Kampung Iboi, Baling endured its 11th reported flash flood.

Flash floods have now become a regular monthly occurrence in every state throughout the year, and residents in some areas, like Baling, have resigned themselves to more floods next year. – Bernama