Thursday, March 22, 2007

Putrajaya Landslide buries 23 cars, 1,200 evacuated

Around 1,200 residents were evacuated early Thursday morning when a part of a 12m high hillslope crashed down on a parking lot, burying 23 cars under tonnes of soil and undergrowth.

The force of the landslide flipped over some cars and crushed them.

The soil came to a halt mere inches away from a kindergarten housed at one of the blocks.

However, no one was injured in the 4am incident.

Residents from 330 units of three blocks of 15-storey high apartments in Precinct 9, were asked to evacuate by the police immediately after the incident.

According to officials a special committee had been formed to study the safety of the hillslope as an open reservoir holding over 40 million litres of water sits on the hilltop.

One of the official said the committee would be carrying out soil and various other tests to determine the cause and ensure the area was safe.

The apartments are the residential quarters for civil servants from the various ministries in the administrative capital.

Some 150 police were then dispatched to secure the area affected.

A 12-member Smart team and 36 firemen, together with five sniffer dogs, were also reined in.

One resident Mohamad Haidhir Hamzah, 32, whose Naza Citra car was buried under the heap of soil, said he was woken up by a loud noise at around 3.30am but went back to sleep thinking that it was merely noise from the construction area behind his apartment in Block B.

"It's usual for us to hear such noises because of the movements of construction lorries and machinery. So, I thought it was one of those times.

"But then I was woken up by the police informing me to evacuate the premises immediately with my wife and toddler daughter. I didn't even have time to bring any food or clothes with me," he said.

Usually he would not park his car at the lot behind the apartment.

"But I came back at 5pm on Wednesday and my parking lot was already full so I had to move my car there," he said. He added the car was only a year old.

Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan, who turned up around 9.30am to inspect the damage and spoke to the residents, said affected civil servants could take time off to deal with the problem.

"Ikram (Public Works Institute of Malaysia) has yet to give us an initial assessment of the damage as well as the condition of the ground.

"I am sure they will turn up for work as soon as the matter is settled," he said, adding that the Government would look into all matters, including the issue of aid and compensation for those affected.

Putrajaya Corporation chairman Tan Sri Samsuddin Osman said it had made arrangements for residents to be temporarily placed at the community hall in Precinct 9.

"I have been told by Ikram that the building is stable but they want to conduct further tests on the ground. If they decide that it will be too dangerous for the residents to return, we will arrange for them to stay in the apartments in Precinct 14," he said.

Putrajaya police chief Supt Abdul Razak Abdul Hamid said the landslide measured some nine to 12-metre high and covered a three-metre wide area.

"We have determined that no one was hurt in the incident,” he said.

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