Rescuers from fire dept talk of uphill challenges

DIFFICULT terrain, unseasonal weather and dangerous wildlife are among challenges typically faced by rescue teams when locating missing hikers.

Selangor Fire and Rescue Department assistant director Ahmad Muhklis Mukhtar said these factors would often complicate efforts to find the victims.

“Malaysian forests are known for steep slopes and dense vegetation that may slow down our rescuers, especially during rainy season,” he told StarMetro.

Certain forests, he said, were known habitats of dangerous reptiles and mammals, posing further risks to the rescuers.

Ahmad Mukhlis says rescuers use clues such as campfires, broken branches and scraps of clothing in the search for missing hikers.Ahmad Mukhlis says rescuers use clues such as campfires, broken branches and scraps of clothing in the search for missing hikers.

To get an idea of the missing hikers’ last-known location, Ahmad Mukhlis said rescuers would interview other hikers and local communities in the area.

“However, the information they give us is sometimes unclear.

“They might mention a big rock or tree, which may take time to locate,” he added.

For these reasons, Ahmad Mukhlis said rescuers regularly worked with mountain guides who were more familiar with the area.

“We will look for clues such as campfires, broken branches, leftover food, and scraps of clothing,” he said.

Between Jan 1 and May 18, at least 15 distress calls were received about missing hikers in Selangor, said Ahmad Muhklis.

A total of 25 people were rescued, including one injured person, he said and added that there was one fatality recorded.

Ahmad Muhklis said rescue teams also used search dogs, although this approach came with its own challenges.

“The canines can easily detect the scent of a missing person within 24 hours. But they might find it difficult if a few days have passed,” he said.

“Drones and thermal sensors are also used in rescue operations.”

Rescue personnel have basic medical training and are provided with climbing gear, GPS navigation device, food and drinks, among others, he said.

The approach in rescue operations will depend on the size of the search area.

“We also take into account the terrain and density of the forest before conducting a clean sweep of the area,” said Ahmad Muhklis.

“Usually, rescue personnel will maintain a distance between 1m and 2m between each other to enhance coverage,” he said.

He advised those who lost their way in the wilderness to stay close to water sources, and if able, to call the emergency line 999, and avoid moving far from their last-known location.

Asked if the department would stop a rescue operation if too much time had passed, he said they would continue the search until all options have been exhausted.

However, he added that the operation would resume once new clues emerge.

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