GEORGE TOWN: For awhile, there was nobody to send the bodies of two foreigners killed in the latest Penang landslide back to Indonesia.
The contractor made it clear that the dead were not its workers, so the bodies lay in the mortuary for a day until a kind-hearted undertaker forked out over RM9,000 to send their remains to Sulawesi.
Attempts to get an interview with the undertaker were unsuccessful but a source in the state government said the undertaker did everything he could to give the bodies a dignified send-off.
“The coffins were airtight with dry ice inside and pressurised with a gas to make sure the bodies would be in proper condition when they arrived home.
“There are a lot of procedures to comply with to send a body by plane and the undertaker took all the trouble,” said the source, adding that the remains reached Sulawesi on Sunday.
State Welfare and Caring Society Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said the bill would be sent to the contractor.
“They have to be morally and principally responsible. The state and the Indonesian consulate-general did what we could for the bodies to be sent home quickly because we didn’t want their families to wait in anxiety.
“The State Islamic Department made sure prayers were offered before the bodies were sent off,” he said.
He added that the state was spending about RM3,000 a day on meals alone for rescue workers and even the press.
On Saturday, Lai Sin Kian, the technical director of Yuta Maju Sdn Bhd, the main contractor for the paired road under construction, said those who perished in the landslide were not hired by the company.
“They are not my workers or any of the sub-contractors’ workers. They could be from outside. I warned my sub-contractors about this two years ago,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) engineering director A. Rajendran said the Bukit Kukus landslide knocked 13 container cabins from where they were positioned.
“Some fell or overturned on their sides,” he said at a press conference held by State Housing, Local Government, Town and Country Planning Committee chairman Jagdeep Singh in Komtar yesterday.Jagdeep said there would be an extensive detailed report before any decision was made on the cause of the incident.
The Penang-based civil group Aliran has called for an immediate stop to all hillside development projects.
“The findings of some of the victims buried alive have raised the issue of workers at construction sites and their safety.
“While the construction sector is considered one of the most unsafe and high-risk job sectors in the world, we cannot help but ask about site safety regulations.
“What were the safety measures taken in Bukit Kukus?” the group questioned in a statement.
Consumers Association of Penang president S.M. Mohamed Idris also supported the call and said that all work on hill-related projects should stop until proper checks were carried out.