- The landslide tore through the farm campsite before 3am
- Eight injured, at least 50 found safe and sound
- Nearly 400 people involved in search and rescue – police
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 16 (Reuters) – A landslide killed at least 12 people as they slept in their tents at a campsite in Malaysia early Friday, officials and witnesses said, as search teams sifted through thick mud and downed trees for more than 20 people still missing.
The landslide in Selangor state, on the outskirts of the capital, Kuala Lumpur, occurred before 3 a.m. (1900 GMT), knocking down a hill on an organic farm with camping facilities, the state fire department said and relief in a note.
Teh Lynn Xuan, 22, said she was camping with 40 others when the landslide hit.
“I heard a loud sound like thunder, but it was rocks falling,” he told the Malaysian-language newspaper Berita Harian. “We felt the tents becoming unstable and the ground was collapsing around us. Luckily, I was able to leave the tent and go to a safer place. My mother and I were able to crawl out and save ourselves.”
He said one of his brothers has died, while another is in the hospital.
More than 90 people were trapped in the landslide and 59 were found safe, with 22 still missing, according to fire and rescue services.
In addition to the 12 who died, eight were hospitalized, he said.
One of the people taken to the hospital was pregnant, while others had injuries ranging from minor cuts to a suspected spinal injury, Health Minister Zaliha Mustafa said at a news conference.
District Police Chief Suffian Abdullah said the dead were all Malaysians and included a boy of about five.
Nearly 400 people from different agencies have been deployed for the ongoing search and rescue operations, he said at a news conference.
The landslide fell from an estimated height of 30 meters (100 feet) above the campground and covered an area of about one acre (0.4 hectares), according to the state director of the fire and rescue department.
Local television footage showed the aftermath of a large landslide in a steep wooded area beside a road, while other images on social media showed rescuers climbing thick mud, large trees and other debris.
“I pray that the missing victims can be found safely soon,” Malaysia’s Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change Minister Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, one of several ministers who were on their way to the scene, tweeted on Friday morning. “The rescue team has been working since the beginning. I’m going down there today.”
The disaster struck about 50km (30 miles) north of Kuala Lumpur in the city of Batang Kali, just outside the popular hilly area of Genting Highlands, an area known for its resorts, waterfalls and natural beauty.
Bernama news agency tweeted that all campsites and water recreation areas around Batang Kali had been ordered to close immediately until further notice, citing the home affairs minister.
The photos posted on the Father’s Organic Farm Facebook page show a farmhouse in a small valley, with a large area where you can set up tents.
Selangor is the wealthiest state in the country and has already experienced landslides, often attributed to forestry and logging.
Leong Jim Meng, another camper, said he and his family didn’t expect a landslide because it hadn’t rained much in recent days, just a light drizzle.
“My family and I were trapped when the ground covered our tent,” Harian told Berita. “We managed to rush to the parking lot and called the authorities. They arrived quite quickly, about 30 minutes later.”
A year ago, some 21,000 people were displaced by floods caused by torrential rains in seven states across the country.
Reportage by Rozanna Latiff, Angie Teo, Yantoultra Ngui and Hasnoor Hussein; Written by Lincoln Feast; Edited by Ed Davies and Gerry Doyle
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