KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – A landslide buried 20 boys and four adults at a Malaysian orphanage Saturday where scores of rescuers were digging by their hands in soil softened by the rains to find the missing, police said.
The bodies of five boys, ages 8 to 17, have been recovered. Six boys and a 30-year-old warden who were critically injured were pulled from the mud and rushed to a hospital, district police chief Abdul Rashid Wahab said.
Heavy rain had likely caused the landslide that hit the orphanage for ethnic Malay Muslim boys in a rural village in central Selangor state, he said. Rain was still falling in the evening and hampering rescue work by some 200 firefighters, police and others.
"They just had lunch at the tent by the side of the house when two landslides apparently occurred at the same time. The tent collapsed, burying 24 people as they did not have time to escape," he told The Associated Press.
"Rescuers have to dig using their hands and other equipment because the soil surrounding is very soft due to the rain," he said, adding the search would continue for another nine children and three orphanage staff.
A small stream runs nearby the orphanage, a huge three-story house at a foothill in a sleepy village in Selangor. 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, Abdul Rashid said.
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, 34, told the Malay-language Berita Harian newspaper.