Thursday November 27, 2003
Rockfall at New Klang Valley Expressway
KUALA LUMPUR: Motorists returning to the Klang Valley from the Hari Raya holidays will have to put up with numerous diversions for up to two weeks after a major rockslide yesterday left an 8km-stretch of the New Klang Valley Expressway (NKVE) near the Bukit Lanjan interchange impassable.
Thousands of tonnes of boulders and soil crashed onto the expressway early in the morning forcing the closure of the busy Damansara-Sungai Buloh stretch of the expressway.
No lives or vehicles were lost – the contractors hired by PLUS, the expressway concessionaire, were monitoring the slope since Sunday and they managed to stop traffic moments before the slope collapsed.
ROCK CLEARING: Workers clearing the boulders, rocks, stones and bebris that fell at the 21st kilometre of the New Klang Valley Expressway Wednesday morning. An 8km stretch of the highway is closed for at least 10 days to enable road clearing and repairs. Motorists using the highway are being diverted to alternative routes to reach their destinations. - STARpic by Low Boon Tat
Authorities said the consequences could have been serious had it not been a public holiday yesterday as the stretch is known to be busy during working days.
During the 7.16am incident, a 60m rocky slope adjacent to the northbound side of the expressway at the 21st kilometre collapsed, causing as much as 20,000 tonnes of boulders and soil to cover all eight lanes of the expressway between the Kota Damansara and Bukit Lanjan interchanges.
Some of the boulders were as large as double-storey houses.
After inspecting the site, Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu said the affected stretch would be closed from 10 days to two weeks for the debris to be removed.
“The rocks on the road have to be broken up piece by piece and carried away,” he said, adding that motorists would have to use alternative roads. Click here for map.
The stretch between Sungai Buloh and Jalan Duta is not affected and is still open to traffic.
Samy Vellu, who spoke to PLUS officials and took a helicopter ride to survey the area, said the slope failure could have been caused by water trapped at the upper portion of the slope.
“We feel that excessive water on the upper portion of the hill had somehow washed away the earth beneath the boulders, causing the boulders to give way,” he said.
He said this was the initial explanation to the cause of the incident and engineers would study
the incident in depth to come up with a detailed report.
Samy Vellu said round-the-clock monitoring carried out since Sunday had prevented a terrible accident from happening. The monitoring was being carried out because some small rocks had fallen from the slope.
“The monitoring helped prevent the loss of life by giving advance warning on soil movement,” he said.
PLUS officials said that when the incident occurred, seven people, including two engineers, were carrying out monitoring works in a shelter at the base of the slope.
At around 7am, they saw rocks falling from the slope and plants used for landscaping had moved. The PLUS control centre was immediately informed of it.
The employees quickly stopped traffic minutes before the slope collapsed, preventing any cars from being buried under the debris.
DISASTER SITE: Samy Vellu pointing to the slope where the rockfall occurred Wednesday. On his left is DCP Dell Akhbar.
On why the expressway had not been closed to traffic after rocks had fallen from the slope on Sunday, Samy Vellu said the situation was not so serious as to require such action.
He added that the expressway was the main lifeline connecting the Klang Valley with the north and to close it would cause massive inconvenience.
He said as many as 1.1 million vehicles used the expressway daily during busy periods.
To quell fears that there could be people buried under the debris, police brought in tracker dogs and used ultrasound equipment to detect for signs of life.
At 3.30pm, Petaling Jaya OCPD Senior Asst Comm (II) Ghazali Mohd Amin confirmed that no lives were lost in the incident.
Kuala Lumpur police chief Deputy Comm Datuk Dell Akhbar Khan said two traffic managements plans might be drawn up as a result of the road closure.
“One would be to handle the rush back after the Hari Raya holidays and another to handle daily traffic after the weekend,” he said.
He added that the police would use signboards and other means to redirect traffic.
Transport Minister Datuk Chan Kong Choy, who is also Selayang MP, said he had directed the Road Transport Department and the Selayang Municipal Council to help clear the debris.
He had also directed the council to identify alternative routes to avoid a traffic congestion when road users travel home after the Hari Raya holidays.
Also present at the site yesterday were PLUS executive vice-president Datuk Abdul Wahid Omar and Malaysian Highway Authority Director-General Datuk G. George. Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Khir Toyo and his wife also visited the site at 3pm.
Motorists can contact the PLUS emergency hotline at 03-2692 0000 for information before using the NKVE.
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