Natural disaster responsible for the Batang Kali tragedy?

THE Batang Kali deaths, 21 at the time of writing, took place at an illegally operated business in the middle of a clearing where the camping site at Father’s Organic Farm was located. But is it the cause of a natural disaster after the heavy and continuous rainfall in the region lately?

While experts are giving their views on the matter, Local Government Development Minister Nga Kor Ming revealed the camping site had no operating licences from the responsible parties, the Hulu Selangor District Council.

Which also means they were operating an illegal business without the knowledge of the authorities but with the public fully aware of their location and the services they were providing at the campsite.

On the company’s operating a business without the necessary permits, Nga said, “This is an offence under Act 133, namely the Street Drainage and Building Act.

“If convicted, the person (the operator) can be sentenced to three years in prison, or a fine of not more than RM50,000.”

He spoke to reporters after checking on the search and rescue operation in the area yesterday (Dec 16).

The search and rescue resumes today after a halt during the night, and more gruesome discoveries are expected since at least 12 of the members of the public at the camp site are still missing. Many of the victims are children, and recovery personnel are talking of a heart-wrenching scene in the attempt to find survivors.

According to Nga, all “high-risk” camping sites across the country have been ordered to be closed for seven days, with effect from Friday.

“All campsites along rivers, waterfalls, and even hillsides that may be dangerous will be immediately vacated for seven days. This will continue until new instructions are issued by the Government.

According to preliminary findings, the landslide that struck Father’s Organic Farm’s campsite in Gohtong Jaya early Friday was caused by an embankment slope failure.

Natural Resources, Environment, and Climate Change Minister Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad said the landslide covered an area of 500 metres, 200 metres, and 8 metres, moving approximately 450,000 square metres of soil.

The Minerals and Geoscience Department will monitor the area and issue a warning if there is any earth movement in the area, he said.

Meanwhile, experts in geology noted that saturated soil is one of the main causes of the landslide.

According to geologist Prof Emeritus Datuk Dr Ibrahim Kamoo in a statement to Bernama, the continuous rain over the last few days has weakened the soil structure, making the slope in the area unstable.

As the rain continued to fall, the soil pores began to fill with water, causing the soil structure to become damp and weak. The situation was exacerbated by the overcast weather, which caused the evaporation process to reduce the water content in the soil, resulting in the occurrence of the landslide, which brought down a large amount of soil from the slope, he said.

Dr Nor Shahidah Mohd Nazer, a geology expert and senior lecturer at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Department of Earth Science and Environment, believes it was caused in part by heavy rains in recent weeks as the country enters its monsoon season.

She told Channel News Asia that this is an unprecedented occurrence that did not occur immediately after heavy rain.

She further noted such a landslide is called an earthflow which is a type of landslide that comes with a lot of water, and the composition of the slide, or the slope itself, consists of high fine-grained material that is able to absorb more water and also doesn’t allow water to pass easily.

Under this condition, the slope gets saturated, and it will induce the formation of slip surfaces deep inside the ground.

Meanwhile, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Sabah, Sarawak Affairs, and Special Functions) Datuk Armizan Mohd Ali stated that as of noon, 628 rescue personnel from 16 agencies were involved in the SAR operation.

According to him, the main goal of the SAR operation is to rescue victims who are believed to be buried, while health personnel are focused on treating the injured. — Dec 17, 2022


Main photo credit: Bernama

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