IPOH: A major landslide has closed the North-South Expressway at 302km near Gua Tempurung during heavy rains yesterday.
Tonnes of earth, boulders and trees came crashing down the hill slope burying at least six vehicles in metre-high rubble at a spot some 500m from where a landslide occurred on Jan 6, 1996.
A motorcyclist, who suffered a broken leg, was the only casualty in the 7.30pm incident as all the drivers and passengers managed to get out of their vehicles in the nick of time.
SURVIVOR: Mohd Nasri, from Teriang, Pahang, at Ipoh Hospital. He was rescued from the landslide.
Mohd Nasri Mohd Mazlan, 18, was found buried up to his waist by firemen who responded to the emergency call.
He told police that he saw the earth, boulders and trees falling from the slope and jumped off his machine in a bid to get away.
Mohd Nasri, who was travelling south, even managed to get to the other side of the highway but was overtaken and buried by the rubble.
Other motorists, who escaped uninjured, tried but failed to extricate Mohd Nasri.
Mohd Nasri, from Triang Pahang, was sent to the Ipoh Hospital. Rescue and clearing works were called off at 11.30pm for fear of more landslides, as the rain had not abated.
The vehicles recovered from the debris were Nasri's motorcycle, a lorry, two multi-purpose vehicles and two four-wheel-drives.
About 100 rescue workers from the fire department, police, Rela, PLUS and a team from the Ipoh Hospital’s emergency unit were at hand to help out in the rescue work.
The landslide that covered both lanes of the expressway caused the stretch from Tapah to Gopeng to be closed to traffic for at least a week. The incident caused a massive traffic snarl. Some motorists said they were caught in the traffic jam for over two hours.
Motorists heading north and south were diverted to the federal road at Tapah for those going north and Gopeng for those heading south.
PLUS in a statement described the incident as a mudslide and that it left a trail of debris of 75m in length and about 1m in depth on the southbound lanes of the highway.
“Further monitoring is being carried out to ascertain that no more soil movement in the surrounding areas,” the highway company said.
S. Ramesh, 34, who was heading for Kuala Lumpur with two friends after giving a lecture in Penang, was among those in a convoy of cars.
One of his friends, known only as Prof Menno, was a lecturer from Liden University in Holland while the other was 39-year-old T. Kumar.
A lorry, pick-up truck, van, motorcycle and two cars were pulled out from under the debris.
They were scheduled to give another lecture in Kuala Lumpur today.
Ramesh said he first saw an uprooted tree crashing down on to the road.
“When I was trying to avoid the tree, mud, boulders and other debris came rushing down and pushed our car towards the divider.
“We panicked. Luckily the doors on the right side were not jammed. We opened the doors, jumped over the railings and ran,” he said, adding that all their belongings in the car were damaged.
Businessman Chan Choong Park, 65, who was driving a lorry to Tanjung Malim, said he saw three cars in front of him slowing down.
“I then stopped my lorry. That’s when I saw trees crashing down the slope. I tried to open the door but it got stuck, so I escaped through the window.
“There was a loud noise and just as I got out, boulders and mud came crashing onto my lorry. I was lucky to escape,” he said.
Chan said he could see that the landslide affected a stretch up to 100m long and covered both lanes of the southbound highway and one lane on the northbound side.
Motorist M. Mohan, 27, said he and other motorists abandoned their vehicles and ran for their lives.
“I saw a motorcyclist trapped in the rubble and was shouting for help but I it was not possible for me to pull him out,” he said, adding that the motorcyclist was later rescued by firemen.
“There was a small lorry, two multi-purpose vehicles and two four-wheel drives in front of me when the earth from the hill came crashing down,” he said.
Related storiesClearing works will take a week