DUBBED one of the deadliest in the country, the Batu Berangkai waterfall in Kampar, Perak, has claimed another life.
After a 16-year-old boy drowned there on Sept 6, there are warnings to avoid the area or even cordon it off.
The waterfall is located about 2.5km from Kampar, and is easily accessible through Taman Ros and Kampung Air Terjun.
Some people also go to the location to hike as there is a track that leads up to Gunung Relau, which stands at about 1,219m.
Despite more than five huge warning signboards erected, some people seem oblivious to the risks.
The signboards highlight the dangers of the water surge phenomenon that is known to occur there, explaining what to do and the signs to look out for.
There is also a signboard warning people not to go to the waterfall when it is raining, as the phenomenon could occur very quickly, posing a drowning hazard.
Many who stay at a village near the waterfall have warned of the danger.
The village is known as Kampung Air Terjun to the Malays and Kampung Badak Berendam to the Orang Asli.
Knowing when to leave
Villager Taufik Omar, 36, who lives some 300m from the waterfall, advises those who are not good swimmers, have poor stamina or lack knowledge of the danger signs to avoid going into the water.
Having grown up in the village, Taufik has helped to save two people from drowning so far.
In the latest drowning incident, it was his younger brother who found and carried the body of victim, Lukman Hakim Ismail Sukri, out.
“Villagers know that when the sky becomes dark, it is time to leave.
“When we see wood or leaves drifting quickly and the water starting to turn murky, it is time to get out as a water surge is likely to occur.
“We warn outsiders when we perceive danger, but some will just refuse to leave,” he said.
According to Taufik, there are four parts to the waterfall, with the most dangerous being the upper and lower parts.
“It is safest to swim on the second and third tier of the waterfall, and also by the side.
“I would advise visitors to avoid the centre where currents can be strong.
“The lowest part of the waterfall where the pool is located, is deep, and many people get swept away due to strong currents from the top that push them into the pool.
“The pool is where the 16-year-old boy was found,” he added.
When the weather is not good, villagers tell those inside the water to get out but it’s up to them to heed the advice.
Taufik also suggested that a rope and float be placed at the pool area as a safety measure as it would also aid rescue efforts.
He said the villagers had an old saying about how the waterfall would take the life of one person each year.
“If in that year, no life is taken, then in the next years, it is claimed at least two or three people will drown,” he said.
The Tok Batin of the village Sam Amok, 57, said the majority of those who swam at the waterfall were outsiders.
He said that the villagers who swam there were aware of the risks.
“We know when to go, where to swim and when to come out.”
“There are stories of spirits too, but sometimes it is people’s attitudes that lead to such tragedies,” he added.
Alif Ikhwan Shamsul Ariffin, 18, from Manjung, who was spotted at the site with five friends, said it was his first time there.
When asked, he said he was not aware of the latest drowning incident nor of what danger signs to look out for.
“I don’t know how to swim, and plan to be careful,” he said.
Sisters Nur Amira Hazmieza Erka Hazmir, 14, and Nur Afifi Hazmieza Erka Hazmir, 12, from the village said they often went with their family members to the waterfall.
Nur Amira said she was well aware of the dangers, and the signs to look out for.
“We have all been taught by our family on the dos and don’ts, and we never swim at the lowest part of the waterfall or in the middle, and always stay by the side,” she said.
Nur Afifi said she knew that when the sky turned dark, it was not advisable to be at the waterfall.
Kampar District Council councillor Ng Wah Leng said the waterfall was popular with tourists.
However, she said it should be avoided when the weather was not favourable.
“The rocks are slippery, and the currents strong.
“This has resulted in people falling into the water, or getting injured after hitting the rocks.
“I realise a lot of teenagers go there to have fun and sometimes they don’t pay attention to the dangers.
“The water can be calm and appear shallow, but in the blink of an eye, a water surge can happen,” she said.
Ng however said it was not suitable to fence up the waterfall area.
Kampar District Penghulu Sariee Bakar also said cordoning off the area wasn’t possible as the space was too large.
He said detailed signboards at the site warn people to be alert at all times.
“The signboards are not brief as we have put in details on what to do and what not to do,” he added.
On alert for accidents
Perak Fire and Rescue Department’s acting Operations Division deputy director Muhamad Shahrizal Aris said it had directed all stations in Perak to monitor popular recreational sites, especially during school holidays and on weekends.
He said they had been handing out pamphlets with information on safe recreational water activities along with what to do in an emergency.
“With the unpredictable weather, it is best to avoid water-related activities,” he said.
Perak Tourism, Housing and Local Government committee chairman Datuk Nolee Ashilin Mohamed Radzi had recently said that there were no plans for extra precautions at the site.
“Right now, we don’t have enough capacity to add in extra measures such as guards to monitor the area.
“This area is known for being risky, and there are notice boards reminding visitors about it.
“It is advisable to stay away from these areas with the unpredictable weather and during the monsoon season, water surges are bound to occur,” she added.
On Sept 6, the victim had gone with two friends and his former teacher to the waterfall.
Kampar OCPD Supt Hasron Nazri Hashim had said that Lukman Hakim and the others were from Batu Gajah.
When they arrived at around 11.30am, Lukman Hakim was the first to jump in while the others were carrying items from the car.
He was last seen in the middle of the waterfall before suddenly disappearing.
Last February, two friends drowned at the same waterfall when one of them tried to save the other.
Both the 20-year-old victims from Selangor were with two other friends when the incident happened.
In November 2009, three Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman students drowned after they were swept away by a sudden torrent of water.
In July 2015, two 16-year-old students drowned there.
Prior to 2015, several other cases were reported.
Over 10 people have drowned there in the last 10 years.