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Malaysia probes rural town after deadly landslide

by Staff Writers
Kuala Lumpur (AFP) May 23, 2011
Malaysian authorities on Monday investigated the rural town where a landslide slammed into an orphanage, leaving 16 dead, for fear another disaster could hit the slip-prone region.

A 34-year-old caretaker and 15 boys, aged between eight and 19 years old, were killed and 10 others were hospitalised in the tragedy at Hulu Langat town just outside the capital Kuala Lumpur.

The boys were attending a drum rehearsal held in a tent when an avalanche of rocks, sand and mud came crashing down on Saturday after days of heavy rain.

Teams from the Public Works Department and geologists from a university institute are surveying hillside developments in the town, where clusters of traditional ethnic Malay-style houses line the country road next to a river.

Ibrahim Komo, director of the Southeast Asia Disaster Prevention Research Institute which is carrying out a week-long probe, said the orphanage was situated near a hill that had been sliced off and left without any support system such as a retaining wall.

"If people were aware of the signs of a landslide, they will know that this slope is unstable, and it's only a matter of time that this slope will fail," he told AFP.

"For this particular slope, we know for sure that the cutting of the slope was the cause."

"There are many, many houses built close to the slope," he added. "The community, villagers, they seldom put any support system so all this cutting the hill at the bottom of the slope has some risk of slope failure."

An official from the Public Works Department could not say what remedies would be taken if any more buildings are deemed unsafe.

The orphanage is believed to have been built a decade ago without official approval.

Housing and Local Government Minister Chor Chee Heung said that in those days landowners were not required to submit building applications, but that the rules on slope developments have now been tightened.

Malaysia has suffered a series of landslide disasters over past decades.

In one of the worst incidents, a huge mudslide brought on by heavy rain led to the collapse of a 12-storey residential building in suburban Kuala Lumpur in December 1993, killing 48 people.

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16 dead in Malaysia orphanage landslide
Hulu Langat, Malaysia (AFP) May 22, 2011
A close-knit village on the outskirts of the Malaysian capital was grieving on Sunday for the deaths of 16 people, mostly children, after an orphanage was hit by a devastating landslide. As the search for bodies ended, a local lawmaker said the orphanage, situated at the foot of the steep hill from where the mudslip thundered down, had been built without official permission. Following he ... read more

Malaysia probes rural town after deadly landslide

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