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Malaysia bans hillside developments after landslide: report

A handout photo by the Royal Malaysian Police dated December 6, 2008 shows a landslide which occured early December 6 and hit a residential area in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia's prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has banned hillside developments after a weekend landslide in suburban Kuala Lumpur killed four people and forced thousands to evacuate. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Kuala Lumpur (AFP) Dec 7, 2008
Malaysia's prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has banned hillside developments after a weekend landslide in suburban Kuala Lumpur killed four people and forced thousands to evacuate.

"I am sure this will incur the wrath of individual land owners and developers but enough is enough," Abdullah said, according to Sunday's Star, ordering current projects to be frozen while soil tests are carried out.

"Future projects will also not go on to prevent any further worsening of the soil conditions at the hilly area," he told the daily after a series of landslides in northeastern Kuala Lumpur.

The latest disaster hit early Saturday, burying 14 houses at the upmarket estate of Bukit Antarabangsa, cutting off access for thousands of residents and disrupting water, electricity and phone lines.

Among the four dead was a 20-year-old who was found by his father buried under the rubble still clutching a mobile phone, the Star reported. One person is reportedly still missing.

Police ordered 3,000 to 5,000 residents living nearby to evacuate their homes.

The landslide occurred after days of heavy rains in the area, which is prone to slippages. In 2006 four people were killed and 43 homes destroyed in a nearby suburb.

And in 1993 a landslide triggered by heavy rains caused a 12-storey condominium tower, the Highland Towers, to collapse, killing 48 people.

"Malaysians never want to learn from past experiences. They want good views while developers only seek to profit ... no one takes safety and soil stability into consideration," the prime minister said.

"We will be courting more tragedies if we do not care and protect hillsides," he said.

Opposition parliamentarian Lim Kit Siang accused the government of "sheer criminal negligence" over the incident.

He said in a statement that officials bore responsibility for "closing an eye to dangerous hillside developments and in totally ignoring the lessons of the Highland Towers tragedy 15 years ago."

Selangor police chief Khalid Abu Bakar on Sunday ordered residents from a condominium tower located near the landslide site to evacuate immediately, fearing it "may collapse at any time," the state Bernama news agency reported.

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