KUCHING (BERNAMA) – Strong guard railings will be built at all ferry crossing points in Sarawak to prevent a recurrence of Friday’s tragedy where a four-wheel-drive (4WD) plunged into Sungai Batang Lupar in Sri Aman, said Deputy Chief Minister II Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing.
Masing, who is also Sarawak Infrastructure Development and Ports Minister, said yesterday that the state Public Works Department (JKR) had been instructed to start erecting guard rails immediately.
“With the strong guard rails, nothing can fall from the ferry boarding and alighting point. This will be with immediate effect. It must be understood that the car (4WD) fell from the ferry landing point not from the ferry,” he told reporters after visiting the Triso Ferry Point.
A four-month-old baby was among nine people who perished after the 4WD vehicle they were in went out of control and plunged into the river at the ferry point at about 3pm.
Masing said the tragedy served as a grim reminder of the need to strictly follow the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for using such facilities.
According to the SOPs, all car occupants except the driver must disembark from their vehicle before it is driven through the landing ramp into the ferry, and only board the vehicle after it has exited the ferry at the other point of landing, he said.
“We have to enforce these SOPs that had been introduced for quite some time now,” he said, adding that all users should follow the ferry guards’ instructions at all times.
According to him, the state government had allocated about MYR3 billion to build bridges across rivers that require ferries for crossing in its Second Trunk Road project linking all the coastal areas in the state.
“The state government had to fund it as the previous Pakatan Harapan (federal) government cancelled all the bridge projects. The Batang Lupar bridge costs about MYR848 million to replace the Triso ferry service and we are building it now,” he said.
Masing said the Sarawak government was willing to use its own funds to build these bridges because it realised the infrastructure was important for the people.
“This bridge project is very important for us and we decided to use our funds to make sure that the bridges are done by 2025 or 2026,” he said.
He said investigations so far showed that the tragedy was due to an accident.
On behalf of the state government, he extended his condolences to the families of the victims.
He also thanked members of the public who jumped into the river to try to save the victims.
“That showed that in Sarawak we care for each other. They tried their best to do it (save the victims),” he added.
Meanwhile, Mohamad Hamzah Razali, the husband of Siti Aishah Abdullah who was among nine people perished at the Triso jetty tragedy in an interview said, “My wife insisted to send our two daughters back to their school in Kuching.”
The 43-year-old preacher said he did not expect that to be a sign that her wife will leave him forever.
Mohamad Hamzah said normally, he and his late wife would fetch and send their two daughters Khairunnisa, 14, and Nur Syuhada, 16, to the school.
Mohd Hamzah said the last time he received a WhatsApp message from his wife was after Friday prayers, saying that she was on her way to Kuching with her brother-in-law and other family members in two vehicles.
“I found out about the incident after receiving a call from my mother-in-law at about 3.19pm,” he said.
Meanwhile, Munah Agon, 58, the mother of Siti Aishah and Lorna when met at the Sri Aman Hospital Forensic Unit said she was still in a state of shock over the incident.
Recalling moments before the tragedy, Munah who was travelling in another vehicle trailing the unfortunate 4WD said she was only able to scream upon seeing the vehicle driven by Lorna suddenly lost control before plunging into the river.
Munah said Nur Syuhada and Khairunisa who were the students of a religious school in Samariang, Kuching were expected to start their learning session next week.
Mohamad Hamzah said the remains of his wife and children would be buried in one grave at the Kampung Hulu Sri Aman Muslim Cemetery, while the bodies of Lorna and her two sons would be taken to Sibu after completing the post-mortem process at the Sri Aman Hospital.