Sunday, December 07, 2008

BUKIT ANTARABANGSA TRAGEDY: Act on root cause, says expert

It is time to take stock of existing abandoned projects located on hill slopes, said Dr Gue See Sew, a geo-technical engineer.
He said the authorities had to take stringent measures to deal with existing abandoned projects since nobody was maintaining them.

Even existing properties had to undergo similar strict procedures to ensure their safety, he added.

Gue said this when asked to comment on the predawn landslide in Taman Bukit Utama and Taman Bukit Mewah at Bukit Antarabangsa yesterday, which killed at least three people.

Several incomplete houses were seen near the landslide sites and it was believed that they may have partly contributed to the incident, due to the area not being maintained.
Upset by the latest incident, Gue, who was also a member of the Highland Towers Committee, said the government should look at the root cause of the incident and mitigate it fast.

The geo-technical engineer was at the landslide site to meet with officials from the Public Works Department and Ampang Jaya Municipal Council.

"We can learn from Hong Kong's comprehensive Slope Safety System.

"They even have an inventory of hill slopes. It allows the authorities to systematically screen all of them.

"If there is a slope found to be substandard, the land owner will receive a Dangerous Hillside Order."

After receiving the order, Gue said, the owner may be required to carry out investigation work and, if necessary, upgrading work on the slope.

"Should he or she refuse to do so, the authorities will do it for them but the owner will still bear the cost. Otherwise, a caveat will be lodged on the property.

It was reported that by 2000, the risk of landslides from old man-made slopes in Hong Kong had been reduced to less than 50 per cent, compared with the number in 1977. And, by 2010, the risk will be further reduced by another 50 per cent.

Meanwhile, Public Works Department (PWD) slope engineering unit senior deputy director Dr H.M. Abdul Aziz Hanifah said the cause of yesterday's disaster may be a problem more than three decades old.

Aziz said a lot of development had taken place at the Bukit Antarabangsa area since the 1970s.

"The surrounding slopes may not have been cleared and developed properly. I stress on the 'may' because the actual cause of the failure is still unknown and has to be investigated."

The frequent rains at this time of the year was another contributing factor to the landslide, he added.

"Many slope failures occur during the rainy season. Those staying around hill slopes should inspect the surrounding areas and inform their local authority if they see signs of slope failure."

PWD director-general Da- tuk Seri Dr Judin Abd Karim said the emphasis on the first four days would be on search and rescue.

BUKIT ANTARABANGSA TRAGEDY: Act on root cause, says expert
New Straits Times, Malaysia