No damage to astronomy centre

A motorist driving along the single-lane stretch near the landslide site at Sheikh Tahir Astronomy Centre in Jalan Pantai Acheh, Balik Pulau. — ZHAFARAN NASIB/The Star

THE landslide near Sheikh Tahir Astronomy Centre in Balik Pulau, Penang, is said to be due to failure of the slope’s stone pitching in preventing large rocks from sliding during heavy rain on Monday.

Balik Pulau MP Datuk Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik said he was informed of the matter by the Public Works Department (JKR) district engineer.

He said the particular stretch in Jalan Pantai Acheh is being cleared and only a lane was opened to motorists as of Monday evening.

“I was told that the building is safe and from initial checking, there is no structural damage to it.

“However, the people are advised not to use the covered walkway of the centre for a while,” he posted on his Facebook.

Muhammad Bakhtiar said as a short-term solution, JKR would clean the road and instal safety blocks for the safety of motorists.

The astronomy centre located on a hillock in Pantai Acheh. The astronomy centre located on a hillock in Pantai Acheh.

He said warning signage, blinkers and safety tape would be installed along the affected road, adding that the department would also cover the remnants of residual erosion with canvas and conduct minor slope stabilisation work.

For the long-term solution, Muhammad Bakhtiar said JKR would appoint consultants as soon as possible to get advice on the slope before a contractor is appointed based on the advice of the slope expert.

He said the Malaysian Public Works Institute (Ikram) and JKR did recommend doing slope protection work in 2017 to the owner of the centre, which is the state Mufti Department, but no approval had been given so far.

“The slope protection must be done immediately.

“I will refer to Deputy Chief Minister I Datuk Ahmad Zakiyuddin Abdul Rahman first,” he said.

Muhammad Bakhtiar also thanked the JKR staff, Fire and Rescue Department personnel and other relevant agencies that had been working hard to clear the landslide.

Meanwhile, Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) has called on relevant parties to scrutinise the incident as it involved hill landslides although there was no structural damage to the centre.

Part of the debris from the landslide incident.Part of the debris from the landslide incident.

Its president Meenakshi Raman said the matter needed to be given serious attention by the state government, local authorities and state Mufti Department and the damage needed to be repaired immediately to ensure the safety and stability of the slope.

“Mitigation measures need to be taken so that this problem does not recur in the future.

“If it involves nearby residents, they need to be evacuated,” she said in a statement on Tuesday.

She said every slope must always be inspected to ensure it is sturdy so that any landslide or erosion would not happen easily, especially during frequent storms and heavy rains.

“SAM reiterates its stance that it will not support any development that involves slopes or hillsides to avoid unthinkable incidents or destroying the hill’s ecosystem.”

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