Malaysia campsite search for campers continues after deadly landslide

AFP / Arif Kartono

Rescue teams searching for survivors from a landslide that tore through a campsite in Malaysia recovered the bodies of a woman and two children on Saturday, officials said, raising the death toll to 24.

The landslide in Batang Kali, a popular hilly area about 50 km (30 miles) north of Kuala Lumpur, flattened the unlicensed campsite early on Friday while people slept in their tents. Those killed included seven children.

Of the 94 people caught in the slide, 61 were safe, and nine still missing, according to the Selangor state fire and rescue department.

State fire and rescue chief Norazam Khamis said chances of more survivors being found were slim, given the weight of mud pressing down on the site.

Search and rescue operations resumed for a second day earlier on Saturday after a halt overnight due to heavy rains.

Search and rescue operations were suspended overnight due to heavy rains and resumed around 8.30 a.m. (4:30 a.m. UAE time) on Saturday with the assistance of excavators and seven canines, said Selangor state fire and rescue department chief Norazam Khamis.

"We have to be careful because there is strong water flow from the top and in the soil; this complicates search operations because the ground is soft," he said.

Norazam told reporters the chances of the nine missing people being able to survive the lack of oxygen and the weight of the soil are slim.

An initial investigation showed an embankment of about 450,000 cubic metres of earth had collapsed. The earth fell from an estimated height of 30 metres (100 ft) and covered an area of about an acre (0.4 hectares).

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim told reporters late on Friday the government would provide 10,000 ringgit (AED 8,301) in aid to families of every person killed in the tragedy, while survivors would receive 1,000 ringgit (AED 830) per household.

The Forestry Department in several states ordered the closure of campsites considered as high risk, as well as hiking and off-road driving trails following the disaster.

Landslides are common in Malaysia, but typically only after heavy rains. Nevertheless, flooding occurs often, with about 21,000 people displaced last year by torrential rain in seven states.

At least 24 people, including seven children, were killed after a landslide in Batang Kali, a popular hilly area about 50 km (30 miles) north of Kuala Lumpur, tore down while people slept in their tents.

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