Sunday, December 7, 2008

M'sia Bans Hillside Projects

Source : The Sunday Times, Dec 7, 2008

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.

Hillside developments are now banned, following the latest disaster which bured 14 houses at an upmarket estate. -- PHOTO

'I am sure this will incur the wrath of individual land owners and developers but enough is enough,' Mr 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 on Saturday, burying 14 houses at an upmarket estate, 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 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. -- AFP

One missing after four die

KUALA LUMPUR - MALAYSIAN agencies were still searching for one person on Sunday in the wake of a landslide near the capital that killed four people, forced thousands out of their homes and cut electricity supplies.

The landslide struck in an affluent suburb north of Kuala Lumpur early on Saturday morning, flattening 14 houses. It happened just over a week after two sleeping sisters were killed by a mudslide nearby and after two other slides in the capital.

Some residents packed their belongings into cars and headed for temporary housing as the rubble was being cleared, while others struggled to get supplies to their families after tents were set up to distribute emergency supplies.

'We had to use a small little path to come out. It's all blocked,' said Ngu Siong Ho, 52.

'Our cars and everything are trapped inside. We are considering to go and stay with a friend,' he said.

Shifting earth temporarily halted the search effort which the police said had involved a thousand emergency personnel on the 10 acre site in Selangor state near Kuala Lumpur.

'We have stopped work right now because there is earth movement and it is not safe,' Selangor police chief Khalid Abu Bakar told a press briefing on the site.

State electricity company Tenaga Nasional said in a statement that progress restoring power had been slowed due to rain and earth movements and that four of 16 transformers the slide affected had been put back online. State news agency Bernama reported 1,500 houses were without power.

Green campaigners have repeatedly criticised the building of houses on the steep forested hills near Kuala Lumpur. When the opposition won Selangor in March's election it banned construction on slopes with more than a 25 per cent incline.

Construction has boomed in recent years in the state, the most affluent in this Southeast Asian nation of 27 million people.

The worst disaster was in 1993 when 48 people died in the collapse of a tower block on a site 1.5 kilometres from Saturday's slide.

Action by the federal government has not materialised however, and developers continue to apply pressure to build.

'Even as recent as last month, developers were insisting that they had the right to develop hill slopes and some had told a couple of ExCo (state executive council) members that they were planning to sue us,' Elizabeth Wong, a Selangor state executive council member in charge of environmental matters, said on her website -- REUTERS

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