Sunday, 22 May 2011

Deaths in Malaysia orphanage landslide

At least 10 dead, mostly children, as nine people rescued but six are still missing.
Last Modified: 21 May 2011 14:05
The landslide hit the orphanage following heavy downpours in area over the past few days [Al Jazeera]

At least ten people have been killed in Malaysia after a landslide buried 24 people, mostly children, in an orphanage, Malaysian police said.

The incident took place on Saturday at about 2:30pm (0630 GMT) in the village of Hulu Langat in central Selangor state, just south of the capital Kuala Lumpur.

Police say they have rescued nine people but six are still missing.

Al Jazeera's Divya Gopalan, reporting from Kuala Lumpur, said there were dozens of children present in the orphanage when the landslide hit, all younger than 18 years old.

Mohamad Hambali Ismail, a warden at the orphanage, told local media that the children were preparing to receive visitors when the earth shook.

"I heard a loud noise. Suddenly the earth was chasing me. I had to run to save myself," Hambali, told the Malay-language Berita Harian newspaper.

A police officer said heavy rainfall had likely caused the landslide. He said rain was still falling and hampering rescue work, which would last until nightfall.

"Rescuers have to dig using their hands and other equipment because the soil surrounding is very soft due to the rain,'' Abdul Rashid Wahab, district police chief, told the Associated Press news agency.

"The house wasn't damaged but was partly covered in sludge. Several tall trees fell along with the landslide. Several houses near the orphanage have been told to evacuate amid concerns of further landslides."

The Al Jazeera correspondent said, "Rain has not stopped and it is still drizzling so it's difficult for people to get anywhere. Streets have been flooded and that would have a problem for ambulances who have to try to get to the hospital if they pull out more people."

"Also, infrastructure here is not great. Once they do find people, getting them to hospital is going to be another problem," Gopalan said.

"Time is running out and it's very dark and the longer the victims stay under the mud the chances of survival are less likely."