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Saturday June 27, 2009 – TheStar Online
By LIM CHIA YING
MORE than six months have passed since the Bukit Antarabangsa landslide tragedy on Dec 6 last year that claimed five lives and destroyed 14 bungalows.
Tragic memories still haunt the families who lost their loved ones in the damage inflicted by the landslide and some still have nightmares as they recall the tragic events that happened in the wee hours of the morning.
The authorities and politicians came down to show their sympathy and made repeated promises that the case would be investigated, a report would be submitted, and that future incidents would not happen.
However, what has actually come out of the incident so far or has it been forgotten?
StarMetro recently revisited the site at Jalan Bukit Antarabangsa where a row of elegant bungalows once stood and spoke to victims who were directly affected by the tragedy.
Resident Ungku Farid Ungku Abd Rahman, who had lived in Bukit Antarabangsa for 15 years since moving in in 1993, said he lost everything when the landslide struck.
“Our home was moved nearly 200m from where it originally stood, which proves how massive the impact was,” Ungku Farid, 55, said when we visited his new house that he now occupies with his family in Ukay Bistari.
“Fortunately for me, I was immediately able to find a home to stay in as this place was originally intended for a kindergarten which my partners and I had planned for.
“As you can see, all our belongings are still in a mess as we hadn’t got around to unpacking and we don’t know if this would be our permanent home,” he said.
However, Ungku Farid lost his maid who had been working for only four months with his family, in the disaster.
“Our home was completely destroyed; even our cars, and we could not make an insurance claim as it was considered a natural disaster.
“My wife is still in a state of shock. She wakes up in the middle of the night sometimes and still remembers the incident vividly,” he said.
Ungku Farid’s wife Rohana Mahmood, 54, said they were awoken by a loud sound and, before they knew it, the bed was moving and everything else was shifting.
“Our door was blocked by the beam that fell down but luckily we were still able to climb out,” she said.
Fortunately, two of their three children, were unharmed in the disaster, while their mother and a visiting aunt were saved by the firemen. Their third child was overseas at the time of the incident.
“We do sometimes go back to see the site where slope repair works are being carried out,” she said.
Ungku Farid said they were still awaiting the report from the Public Works Department (JKR) which was promised to be revealed to the people three months after the landslide.
“To date, we have not received the report. Victims like us are suffering in silence in the meantime.
“We are helpless yet who can we blame?” he asked.
He said that there were three rows of abandoned houses behind their homes that were perched on the hillslope, and claimed that the middle row had tumbled down and were buried long before he purchased the bungalow.
Rohana said they had never expected such a disaster when they first moved in since their bungalows and their neighbours’ were built on flat land, while the hill behind was quite a distance away.
Asked if they would ever move back to the disaster site, she said they would have to really consider if it was safe.
Another victim Datuk Shaharuddin Adnan, 62, lost his only son in the landslide.
Wife Datin Jamilah Mohd Kassim said they only had two children, and her world had come crashing down when her son died.
“It’s a tragedy that we can never forget. My son was especially close to me since my daughter is overseas most of the time. He used to accompany me everywhere I went, but he’s gone now,” Jamilah, 59, said between tears and sobs.
On that fateful day, Jamilah said she heard a loud noise and her house shook before the roof tiles started falling down.
“Our home was covered with soil and it was a complete blackout. We were sleeping on the top floor which was not filled with sand so we managed to get out.
“However, my son who was sleeping downstairs was trapped in the rubble,” said Jamilah as Shaharuddin showed a photo of their son, Shaiful Khas Shaharuddin, a 20-year-old college student.
She said they had sold everything off to invest a nice home in the area but now are left with nothing.
Shaharuddin said that being retirees, they also could not secure loans to purchase a new home even if they wanted to.
“Since we are staying with relatives, we are forced to move from one house to another since they have their own families as well. Sometimes, it makes us feel desperate.
“Moreover, we cannot be relying on other people forever,” Jamilah said.
The place is full of memories, and like Ungku Farid, Jamilah said they would go back if the site was really safe. “During the disaster, the firemen told me that the whole area was a water catchment site.
“In this case, the regulators, who are the politicians in power, had failed to determine if our homes were really safe to be built there. Greed and a lack of ethics prevailed over common sense,” Ungku Farid said.
Stemming from that landslide, the Coalition of Bukit Antarabangsa Residents Association (CoBARA) had last month launched its Community SlopeWatch programme to empower the residents in monitoring slopes within their neighbourhood and reporting any signs of slope failure.
Chairman Shahrul Hafiz Teh Abdullah had said the tragedy was a lesson to be learnt from and the coalition wanted to take a more proactive approach by encouraging members to be alert and watchful for signs of slope failure.
For those who were affected by the tragedy, they can only hope for answers from the authorities, which until now, have not been forthcoming.