No answers yetfor Bateq deaths

  • Nation
  • Saturday, 15 Jun 2019

GUA MUSANG: She lost her husband and three adult children to a mysterious disease.

Yet, there is no closure for Som Yai, who is still searching for answers.

“I don’t know what has befallen me. I’ve never seen something like this before,” said the Bateq grandmother who lives in Kuala Koh, the settlement that has been infected by the illness.

The yet-to-be identified disease has taken 14 lives and sent over 100 more to hospital.

One of her children was son Romi Hamdan whose body was exhumed for a second post-mortem on Thursday after the first one showed that he had died of pneumonia.

“I cried when I saw his grave and when I saw authorities exhuming it again,” she said.

“My daughter also died before they could get help.”

As for her husband, he became paralysed before he died.

Som, who has four other children and many grandchildren, said she had a hunch that the deaths had something to do with the water there.

“When we don’t have water, we will use whatever we can get, including run-offs from an oil palm plantation.

“We use it for everything, including washing,” she said.

Another tribe member Mamat Ong is also hoping for answers after his wife and son were stricken by the disease.

“They say it is from the water but we can’t be sure.

“But we want answers soon,” said Mamat.

He said his family members were responding well to medical treatment.

The deaths have become more puzzling after tests by the Department of Environment on water samples found near a manganese mine and Orang Asli water catchments in Kuala Koh was found to be free of contaminants and chemicals such as pesticide and herbicide.

Meanwhile, the entrance to the village remains closed to the public as search and recovery teams continue to trace four more Bateq resting places.

Eight out of the 12 graves have so far been found since the search started on Wednesday.

State police chief Deputy Comm Datuk Hasanuddin Hassan said police are working to bring out the remains of Puja Joh, who died on June 6 and was given customary last rites.

Her remains will be sent for a second post- mortem after the first revealed that she had died of pneumonia.

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