ANN/THE STRAITS TIMES – Malaysian authorities are exhausting all options, including radar, as hopes are fading that they will locate survivors among the nine victims still missing after Friday’s landslide that killed at least 24 at a campsite near Genting Highlands.
Selangor’s State Fire and Rescue Chief Norazam Khamis said ground penetrating radar (GPR) that can detect buried objects has been deployed yesterday to help with the search operations in Batang Kali, a hilly area about 50 kilometres (km) north of Kuala Lumpur.
“We are using whatever resources we have to help locate the remaining victims. Due to the uneven surface at the scene, it’s hard to mobilise the GPR, but we need it as it uses pulses of radar to image the subsurface. It makes it possible to measure the dimensions, depth and thickness of targets, and data is provided quickly and we can cover a large site,” he told The Straits Times. “It is easier and effective in detecting what’s underneath the soil.”
Because of the uneven surface of the soil, rescuers are using wood planks to ease the mobilisation of the equipment, he added.
Eight excavators were being used for digging through more than a metre of debris in some places.
Norazam added that tracker dogs from the fire and rescue department, as well as police and army were involved in the search and more would be brought in if needed.
The fire and rescue chief said on Saturday that the chance of finding more survivors was slim, given the lack of oxygen and the weight of mud pressing down on the site.
Over 700 personnel across various government agencies have been deployed after 450,000 cubic metres of earth fell from a height of 30 metres (m) onto the campsite area of about 0.4 hectare (ha) in the early hours of Friday when the campers were sleeping in their tents.
Police have taken statements from the operator and two staff members of the campsite where 94 people, including families with young children and teachers from a primary school, were staying when the landslide occurred. A total of 61 people were rescued.
Hulu Selangor District Police Chief Suffian Abdullah said the trio from Father’s Organic Farm were questioned on Saturday afternoon.
“We do not rule out the possibility of calling other individuals to help with the investigation,” he told reporters at the site of the tragedy yesterday, where the search resumed in the morning after a break in the wee hours.
In a Facebook post yesterday, the owners of Father’s Organic Farm apologised to everyone affected by the tragedy and offered their sympathies to the victims and their families.
“We humbly bow to everyone affected by this tragedy,” the owners said in the post, which also paid tribute to the rescuers.
Local Government Development Minister Nga Kor Ming said earlier that the Father’s Organic Farm was only licenced for farming and not camping.
But there has been confusion over the legality of setting up a campsite on private land, with Selangor’s state government saying there are no specific guidelines to regulate such activities.