BATANG KALI: The one-year closure of the B66 Batang Kali-Genting Highlands road following the landslide tragedy at the Father’s Organic Farm has caused concern and anxiety among many parties, especially traders and hoteliers in Batang Kali, apart from those who commute daily using the road to their workplaces in Genting Highlands.
Batang Kali, a town located in Hulu Selangor and close to the junction leading to the country's main resort, is described by the locals as a 'RnR town' as it serves as a transit place for travelers to stop for their meal or to stay temporarily before continuing their journey to the northern states, or to Terengganu or Kelantan via Genting Highlands.
The manager of a hotel here, Riduan Adnan, when contacted by Bernama, said the road served as an alternative route for motorists from the north, who exit through the Tanjung Malim toll, to go to the east coast and vice versa, through Genting Highlands.
Riduan, who has been staying in Batang Kali since 2012, said the hotel he was working with was popular, particularly among locals during the school holidays, since the hotel rate in the Genting Highlands was quite expensive.
"Batang Kali is one of the most 'alive' towns in Hulu Selangor, making it a popular transit or stopover place for those who want to go for a holiday to Genting Highlands, but with a limited budget.
"That's why many choose to stop by and stay in this town because of its close distance to Genting Highlands, which is about half an hour drive, apart from the food prices here being cheaper," he said.
An observation by Bernama found that Batang Kali, although only a small town, had many facilities, such as gas stations, banks, budget hotels, fast food outlets as well as Malay food restaurants that offer relatively cheap prices.
Riduan said the effect of the road closure might not be felt yet, but would soon lead to the closure of many businesses as the number of people arriving or passing through the town decreased because of the road closure for slope repair works.
Public Works Ministry secretary-general Datuk Wan Ahmad Uzir Wan Sulaiman on Tuesday (Dec 20) was reported as saying that the Batang Kali-Genting Highlands road would be closed for a year for slope rehabilitation works.
Following the closure, users could use alternative routes via B113 Jalan Batang Kali - Ulu Yam up to B23 Jalan Ulu Yam - Batu Caves or through the main route (FT1001 Jalan Kuala Lumpur-Ipoh).
Restaurant owner Mohd Yasin Abu Bakar, also expressed concern about his business with the closure of the road for a long time.
"My restaurant serves as a stopover for people to eat, especially those coming down from or going up to Genting Highlands.
"I hope the government will think of a solution to this because we, the traders, also need to think about various costs to be paid such as salaries and so on," he said.
Those interviewed said the alternative road takes longer traveling time, stretching a distance of 90km or more than an hour and a half to reach Genting Highlands compared to about 30 minutes with a 30km journey if through the now-closed road.
One Facebook user, Nurul Amyra stated that the alternative road was far as she had to go through Gombak to go to Genting Highlands to work, while the owner of an account by the name of Siti Noor Rahimaniza suggested that the authority allowed workers at the resort to continue to use the Batang Kali-Genting Highlands road.
"Open the road for Genting staff only...get the employer to write a letter and the police to set up a checkpoint at the Batang Kali junction...do it like during the MCO (movement control order)... only the workers can use the road," said Siti Noor.
There are also suggestions from residents in the area for the government to give flexibility to light vehicles, such as motorcycles, to use the road for the convenience of residents in Batang Kali working in Genting Highlands.
Following the road closure, it is learned that there are workers at the resort who are forced to find temporary accommodation in Genting Highlands or stay in hostels provided by their employers.
Meanwhile, Batang Kali assemblyman Harumaini Omar, when contacted by Bernama, said he would discuss with the relevant agencies, such as the District Office, Public Works Department, Royal Malaysia Police, Fire and Rescue Department and Hulu Selangor Municipal Council on the matter.
"We will discuss to find the best and safest solution and method for road users, especially for those who work in Genting Highlands," he said.
On Thursday (Dec 22) was the seventh day of the search and rescue (SAR) operation for landslide victims at the campsite of Father’s Organic Farm, Gohtong Jaya near here, with only one more victim, a boy, yet to be found.
The latest data was obtained after police confirmed the official total number of victims involved was 92 and not 94 as issued earlier.
With the latest development, this brings the total number of victims rescued to 61 while 30 were found dead, including the four bodies recovered on Thursday. - Bernama