Landslide in Malaysia kills 12 at campsite, more than 20 missing

  • Landslide tore through farm campsite before 3am
  • Eight injured, at least 50 safe
  • Nearly 400 people involved in search and rescue operations – police

KUALA LUMPUR, December 16 (Reuters) – A landslide killed at least 12 people as they slept in their tents at a campsite in Malaysia early on Friday, officials and witnesses said, as search teams combed through thick mud and downed trees after more than 20 people still missing.

The landslide in Selangor state, on the outskirts of the capital Kuala Lumpur, happened before 3 a.m. (1900 GMT) and tore down a slope into an organic farm with camping facilities, the state Fire and Rescue Department said in a statement.

Teh Lynn Xuan, 22, said she was camping with 40 others when the landslide struck.

“I heard a loud sound like thunder, but it was the stones that were falling,” she told Malaysian daily Berita Harian. “We felt like the tents were becoming unstable and earth was falling around us. Luckily I was able to leave the tent and go to a safer place. My mother and I managed to crawl out and save ourselves.”

She said one of her brothers died while another was in the hospital.

More than 90 people were involved in the landslide and 59 were found safe with 22 still missing, according to fire and rescue services.

In addition to the 12 dead, eight were hospitalized, it said.

One of those taken to hospital was pregnant, while others had injuries ranging from minor lacerations to a suspected spinal injury, Health Minister Zaliha Mustafa told a news conference.

The district police chief, Suffian Abdullah, said the dead were all Malaysians, including a child around five years old.

Nearly 400 employees from multiple agencies have been deployed to the ongoing search and rescue efforts, he said at a news conference.

The landslide came down 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.

Footage from local television showed the aftermath of a large landslide through a steep, wooded area next to a road, while other images on social media showed rescue workers scrambling over thick mud, large trees and other debris.

Reuters graphics

“I pray that the missing victims can be found safely soon,” Malaysian Minister for Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad tweeted Friday morning, one of several ministers who made their way to the scene. “The rescue team has been working since morning. I’m going down today.”

The disaster happened about 50 km (30 miles) north of Kuala Lumpur in the town 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 Interior Minister.

Pictures posted to the Father’s Organic Farm Facebook page show a farmhouse in a small valley, with a large area for tents to be set up.

Selangor is the wealthiest state in the country and has suffered from landslides in the past, often attributed to forest and land clearance.

Leong Jim Meng, another camper, said he and his family didn’t expect a landslide as it hadn’t rained heavily in the past few days, with only a light drizzle.

“My family and I were trapped when the earth covered our tent,” he told Berita Harian. “We managed to run to the parking lot and call the authorities. They came pretty quickly, about 30 minutes later.”

A year ago, flooding caused by torrential rains in seven states across the country displaced about 21,000 people.

reporting from Rozanna Latiff, Angie Teo, Yantoultra Ngui and Hasnoor Hussein; Writing Lincoln Feast; Adaptation by Ed Davies and Gerry Doyle

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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