International desk – At least three people have been killed and 11 others believed to have trapped after a landslide at a construction site in Malaysia’s Penang province, media reports said quoting officials Saturday.
Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng called for a state inquiry into a landslide as Bangladeshi workers are reported to have gone missing after the mishap.
Thousands of tonnes of earth slid down from a cut slope at Lengkok Lembah Permai in Tanjung Bungah, George Town, at about 8.30am, reported The Straits Times newspaper.
The chief minister said he will put the proposal for formal inquiry to the state executive council for consideration next week.
“A normal investigation will not suffice for this tragedy, so I will propose a state inquiry… that is similar to the inquiry held for the incidents at the second Penang bridge and the Menara Umno previously,” he said.
The state set up a commission and conducted public inquiries into the collapse of a section of the ramp leading to the Second Penang Bridge and the failure of a structure at Menara Umno along Macalister Road in 2013, said the report.
News agency reported that the bodies of two Indonesians and one Myanmar national were pulled from the debris, while two other workers escaped with light injuries.
“Now the problem we are facing is we need to excavate a 35m heap of earth. We have deployed a K9 unit with three dogs to search for victims,” Penang Fire and Rescue Department Director Saadon Mokhtar said.
Most of those trapped were believed to be foreign workers from Indonesia and Bangladesh, including Rohingyas, he said.
One Malaysian, the construction site supervisor, was believed to be buried as well.
The Star Online quoted Mokhtar as saying the earth was washed down from a height of 35m.
Penang Island City Council Mayor Maimunah Mohd Sharif said: “We don’t know what caused the landslide yet. But it cannot be due to wet weather. It has not been raining for days on the island.”
A stop-work order has been issued on the construction site until the search and rescue is completed.
The New Straits Times (NST) quoted a foreign worker as saying the incident happened very quickly. “I was operating the crane when suddenly the earth caved in,” he said. “There was hardly time to do anything.”
Tanjung Bungah Residents Association (TBRA) Chairman Meenakshi Raman demanded that the state government set up a royal commission of inquiry (RCI) to investigate the cause of the landslide, NST reported.
“Let us stop this once and for all. Enough is enough!” she said. “Why should innocent lives be (taken) at the expense of development?”
She said whenever civil liberties groups comment on the hill slope developments, which they say caused flash floods, the Penang government would brush them aside, calling them “irrational.”