Residents rally on; occupants of 44 houses still
deemed unfit for occupation wait for long haul reparation and
Sunday, June 7th, 2009 22:09:00
ZONED OFF: A view from Bukit Mewah which received the full brunt of
the landslide which began from the slopes of Wangsa 9 (backfround).
Note the buttercups amidst the rubble.
IF you were to look a little beyond the signboard in this picture
Malay Mail cameraman
Abdul Razak Ghazali took early on Saturday morning, you might notice
the flowering of yellow wild buttercup amidst the rubble, lalang and
Journalists somewhat instinctively pick up little descriptive symbols
or signs that may help in telling the story. Somehow the 'Kawasan
Larangan' literal translation of 'Prohibited Territory' comes across
as a bit harsh when the intended message probably is 'keep away' or
'no entry'. Also, maybe there could be a little more gentleness and
sensitivity especially towards those who have experienced a calamity.
Razak was at Bukit Antarabangsa to revisit the area that six months
ago, on 6 December precisely, was a surreal scene of chaos. A
community in a popular suburb of the city being evacuated with the proverbial
'only clothes on their backs'? These kind of incidents usually happened
in the east coast or other monsoon flooding prone areas.
But Bukit Antarabangsa had been crippled by a landslide. Earlier that
morning - around 3.30am - the disaster had struck, burying 14 homes
and five lives in its wake.
The muddy 'moving' earth had cut off the only access road to the other
at-risk residential areas in the vicinity, trapping hundreds of residents.
The army, fire department, medics and other rescue teams came out in
full force; police by noon reported 93 people rescued and more than
2,000 residents evacuated. Helicopters had airlifted 13 people to hospitals,
among them two pregnant women, two elderly women with weak hearts, a
stroke patient and another needing haemodialysis treatment.
"IT WILL NEVER BE THE SAME..."
"It was chaotic, like a war zone with uniformed personnel around, confusion
of course, and even the oddity of seeing blurry-eyed, sleepy people
carrying their pillows and what-nots, passing through our clubhouse,"
said Syed Azman Albukhary, president of the nearby Impian Selatan Condo
residents association. "...but it's like back to normal now." Families
from the over-100 units in the three blocks there had then been guided
through 'Outward Bound' school-like jungle treks, aided by soldiers
and support ropes along slopes, down to safer ground.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Soil-nailing and micro-pile work being carried out
to stabilise the failed slope fringing Wangsa 9.
The Impian Selatan Condo residents were not allowed to live there
for about a month. The worst-affected among them were 27 households
from Block B1. Occupants returned in late February.
"It's okay now... but it will never be the same, you know," said Syed
Azman. "The scars will always remain. How not to.
"Every day we pass the place; now we see the repair works by the
Public Works Department going on..."
In February, the Works Ministry had announced that RM70mil had been
allocated for stabilisation of the landslide-hit area. Its Minister
Datuk Seri Mohd Zin Mohamed said the Cabinet had approved the amount,
which would be recouped after authorities "identify the parties responsible
for the tragedy that claimed five lives on Dec 6."
"It will be a daily on-going thing for some time," said Syed Azman,
who recalled being rejuvenated when the residents rallied, "garnered
their strength despite the trying period, donated and pooled money among
themselves, and went all out to help one another.
"Some of us were lucky enough to have relatives who invited us to stay,"
he related, and in half-jest added"...when were outstayed our welcome,
we went on to stay with others and others. There were residents
not so fortunate who stayed in hotels for about a month and it did come
up to quite a bit."
Syed Azman said there were expenses to be met in making the place habitable
again - the cleaning up (washing away of mud and cutting of grass),
seeing to the reconnection of disrupted electricity (RM5000 - at a discounted
rate) and water (RM 3,000, also discounted) because of overdue bills
too. "We are grateful to Lembah Jaya MP Datuk Ismail Kijo who had set
up a fund for victims, of which the Impian Selatan RA received RM10,000.
Gombak MP Azmin Ali donated RM2,500, and to meet other expenses, residents
themselves chipped in."
INSURANCE, BANKS, FORFEITS.... & PENALTIES FROM MISPLACED TRUST
But back to today and Syed Azman said the most uppermost wanting of
residents was basically one of restoration of faith. "We need the authorities
entrusted with approvals, monitoring of any development and maintenance
in the area to please do their jobs with conviction. Make sure those
working on such matters - from developers to those in charge of clean
drains are compelled to abide by regulations . Everyone must do their
part. There must be a holistic approach to ensure such an incident NEVER
ever happens again."
Like the one-off insurance coverage against landslides that the
condominium fortunately had. The association is in the midst of handling
the matter (around RM550,000) "but after this has happened, no
one will grant insurance coverage on this again."
Banks have also stopped giving out loans against property in the area
immediately after the landslide occurred. There are potential buyers
who lost their deposits despite still being interested in purchasing
One naturally distressed man has been scouting for any form of redress.
His RM100,000 deposit, made just before the landslide occurred,
for a semi-detached property near the area had been forfeited.
STEEP: Slope reinforcement has almost reached the front gates of homes
at Wangsa 9.
"The banks rejected his loan application, he can't get back his hard-earned
money... this is not right," said very active resident committee member
Yen Hee of Jalan Wangsa 9, who has steadfastly taken on liaising constantly
with the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council, JKR and other authorities.
"He should not be made a victim too," said Yen Hee, who bravely soldiers
on with doing what she has to and more. Her home is among the
23 households along Jalan Wangsa 9 that occupants can't return to. There
are with eight more houses in Taman Bukit Jaya and another 11 in Bukit
Mewah, the area that the landslide engulfed, which are still under
So since 6 Dec, occupants of these 44 residences have had to live elsewhere.
When will they be able to go home? While the Works Ministry in February
had said "within six months" upon completion of soil stabilisation in
the immediate landslide hit area, Yen Hee herself is unsure "but hopefully,
possibly by year-end, slightly more?"
For some three weeks now, the physically seen reparation works in the
area can be seen taking shape.
Work at the rest of the affected area is scheduled to be completed within
two years, the Works Ministry had said.
"The JKR-supervised work, like soil stabilising and slope reinforcement,
is progressing and we are working on communicating better. However,
some of our houses have cracks appearing, which is very worrisome. The
contractors have promised to look into repairing that," related
Yen Hee, who has seen about 10 workers-on-the-job whenever she visits.
"But, we are also very worried over the security. There had been promises
from the police that there would be guards to prevent any thefts or
break-ins, which had occurred. As a 'desperate' measure, we have paid
a gardener to temporarily be on the lookout for us but how much can
one person do... how long must this go on. "
(It is not without a little "can you believe it" that when asked, she
says, "yes," she knew about a police raid on one of the houses behind
the affected row some three weeks ago, where the "biggest drugs haul
in Selangor" occurred. The suspects had led police to their "storage"
Yen Hee makes it a point to go to the site two to three times a week
and definitely her vacated house at least once on these visits
for a quick check, cleaning of whatever she can and to look out for
neighbours some of whom have had damage to their premises by water entering
"from we don't know how or when... or from where". Parquet flooring
ruined, cupboards damaged.
SUBSIDY, HURT... & THE WILL TO REBUILD
Those who have had to vacate their homes receive a RM1,000 rental subsidy
every month from the State Government through the Ampang Jaya Municipal
Council (MPAJ). Yee Hee liaises on this so that everyone gets their
NO ROAD LEFT: Owners of these vacated homes gain entrance from the
backway wheneever they come around to do their checks.
They, however, would rather go home.
"We often can't help but think about the little, little things - the
equipment and other stuff, like my fridge; will it still be useable
after all this time..." said Yen Hee, who tries very hard to keep everyone
updated on the blogsite (yenhee.blogspot.com) she specially created
immediately after the landslide occurred. "I don't have a landline where
I am staying now in Taman TAR, and whenever I can, 'borrow' someone's
What is clear is the resilience of the people who have had little choice
but to handle the situation as best as they can.
"When this happened, people had brushed this off as a 'rich' man's area,
and that we would be okay," related Syed Azman, who was amused and slightly
indignant that sermons he heard were "hurtful attributing the incident
as a punishment from God as we were 'sinners'.
"All I can say is that this was no fault of ours. We welcomed any help
in our time of need especially for those who are not financially secure,
and if none was forthcoming, we just did things ourselves. There is
no way we would justify our suffering to get money."
Man's fault or God's wrath, what is real is that the residents are intent
on the blossoming of the spirit of "love thy neighbour", and on rebuilding
their homes and lives.
OVERALL VIEW: From Jalan Wangsa 9, this is the path the landslide
took to where the bungalows once stood, marked by the hanging bedsheet-like
blue plastic tarpaulins. In the background is the Impian Selatan Condominium.
All pictures by ABDUL RAZAK GHAZALI
CORDONED OFF: The metal fencing at the entrance to Wangsa 9 erected
by contractors Protasco Bhd's HCM Engineering Sdn Bhd. The other three
simultaneously doing stabilisation and restoration works are MTD Capital
Bhd, Jamil Ghani Construction Sdn Bhd and Target Resources Sdn Bhd.
WHERE THE HOUSES WERE BURIED: This is the entrance to the Bukit Mewah
'ground zero' site where levelling and soil stabilising works are
GREAT WALL UNDER BLUE SKIES: These are the 12 odd-number addressed
homes, all vacated, in Wangsa 9, stretching from No.1 on the right
up to No. 25 along Jalan Wangsa 9. The unpopular 'bad luck' number
13 was purposely skipped.
BUILDING UP: Imagine terms like 'soil-nailing' and 'micro-pile'
being carried out to in the minutest of detail to reinforce the slope
fringing Wangsa 9.
SO CLOSE TO HOME: It is almost unimaginable to have such massive consruction
work just at the fringe of one's driveway.
PASSING BY: RM70 million is being spent on rehabilition work being
carried out at the landslide affected areas and is targetted for completion
by end August.