Malaysia landslide death toll rises to 24; nine still missing

The bodies of a woman and two children were found when rescue efforts resumed after a brief halt due to rain.

Rescue workers walk with sniffer dogs at the site of a deadly landslide as they search for survivors in Batang Kali, Selangor on December 17, 2022. - Rescue workers scoured muddy terrain for survivors and bodies on December 17 as the death toll from a landslide at a Malaysian campsite rose to 21, including five children, authorities said. (Photo by Arif Kartono / AFP)
Rescue workers are using sniffer dogs to find survivors and victims after a deadly landslide at the Batang Kali campsite on December 17, 2022 [Arif Kartono/AFP]

Rescuers in Malaysia have found the bodies of a woman and two children, raising the death toll from a landslide at an unlicensed campground to 24, an emergency services official says.

Nine people remained missing on Saturday, and rescue efforts continue at the site 50km (30 miles) north of Kuala Lumpur, said Norazam Khamis, fire chief in Selangor state.

Rescue efforts were hampered overnight due to heavy rain but picked back up early on Saturday as emergency response workers scrambled to locate any signs of life or human remains.

Norazam told reporters the bodies of a mother and son were found under a metre (3 feet) of mud and debris. The body of a little girl was discovered later. He said there was hope of finding survivors if they clung onto branches or rocks that created pockets of air but chances were slim.

Rescue dogs and excavators were deployed to assist the rescue workers, who used shovels to sift through mud and uprooted trees in search of victims.

Authorities were still carrying out autopsies and waiting for next of kin to identify the victims.

Survivors said they had heard a deafening boom on Friday and the earth shook before they were buried by the landslide inside their tents. According to officials, 94 people were sleeping at the Batang Kali campground on an organic farm when part of a hillside collapsed, sending mud and trees cascading down from a road about 30 metres (100 feet) above the site.

All the victims were reportedly sleeping at the time the landslide, which covered about one hectare (2.5 acres) of land, enveloped their tents.

A total of 21 bodies have been removed from the site so far. An additional seven people were hospitalised, including three Singaporeans.

The disaster is unfolding during Malaysia’s monsoon season when torrential rains are known to trigger landslides in the region surrounding Kuala Lumpur.

Damaged cars are seen amongst the debris during a rescue and evacuation operation following a landslide at a campsite in Batang Kali, Selangor state, on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, December 16, 2022, in this picture obtained from social media. Korporat JBPM/via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.
Damaged cars are caught in debris after a landslide on December 16, 2022, at a campsite in Batang Kali outside Kuala Lumpur as seen in this picture obtained from social media [JBPM/Reuters]



Teh Lynn Xuan, 22, who was also camping at the site, said her mother survived by crawling out of their tent but one of her brothers was killed and another injured.

“Everything happened too quickly,” she said.

“Let’s pray for the people of Malaysia and hope that this mission goes smoothly,” Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said in a statement.

The farm was known for renting tents to campers and had become a popular attraction for families looking to escape from the capital.

Officials say the farm was not licensed for camping activities. Authorities suspect it had been illegally operating the campground for at least two years. The site’s operator could now face prosecution.

The government has ordered all campsites nationwide that are near rivers, waterfalls and hillsides to be shut for a week to assess their safety.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies