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PM Najib says orphanage landslide could have been avoided

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SELANGOR: Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said the weekend landslide that killed 16 people could have been avoided if existing guidelines on building construction were strictly followed.

He said while the local authority needs to tighten enforcement, getting landowners and residents to cooperate is easier said than done.

Located in the state of Selangor, southeast of Kuala lumpur, Hulu Langat was once a peaceful enclave of the local Muslim community.

But the area is now declared unsafe and is being closely monitored by authorities.

Tons of soil – enough to fill 600 trucks – crashed down on an orphanage on Saturday, burying 26 people mostly children and volunteers.

Ten survived and are being treated in hospital.

Prime Minister Najib visited the site upon his return from an overseas trip.

He offered his condolences to the victims and families and announced a further financial handout of US$3,400 each.

Mr Najib said the tragedy could have been avoided if there had been proper enforcement.

“If they follow the guidelines, yes (the landslide tragedy) could have been avoided,” Mr Najib said.

“The problem is, you’ll come into conflict with people’s personal interest — they have to give up something so people must be willing to give up something to avoid incidents like this. I realise it’s easier said than done.”

Under the law, landowners are entitled to build a house in their reserved agriculture land provided authorities approve.

But the problem is many do not follow guidelines strictly such as the orphanage.

It was built at the bottom of a 40-meter hill slope. The unusually heavy rainfall in the past week that was said to be four times heavier than normal, has further weakened the structure, causing the walls to collapse.

What made matters worse is there was no buffer zone between the building and the hill slope.

All clearing work has stopped indefinitely following signs of tension cracks at the hilltop.

The government has promised to move the orphanage to safe ground, but residents in the surrounding areas are not willing to leave .

One resident said: “I hope the government will help prevent further landslide, I have no where else to go, this is all I have”.

Another said: “I will only move out if the government compensates me, otherwise I won’t”.

Mr Najib admits there were weaknesses in the local government which is controlled by the opposition, but declined to comment further till the Cabinet receives a full report on the incident.

Source : channelnewsasia

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