The fairly low amount of disasters in Malaysia makes the country a relatively secure zone from catastrophes. However, multiple large scale tragedies once struck the country that cost hundreds and thousands of lives. Some of the events occurred even before some of us were born. Listed below are the tragedies that once made it into the headlines in our country.
1) High Water Level In The Capital City
January 1971. Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak had to declare the country a state of emergency when flash floods attacked Kuala Lumpur. The disaster had sunk 50% of Kuala Lumpur and few other regions such as Klang, Pahang, and Kedah. Tun Abdul Razak had to establish 2 emergency cabinets to supply food, clothes and shelters to the victim. Air support were also brought in to facilitate the victims in rural areas. British and Australian government also joined the aid by supplying instant steel bridges for the local army to build. The water began to recede about a week later, with 57 casualties and a property damage of approximately RM84.7 million. Experts believed that poorer irrigation infrastructure accompanied with heavy monsoon season caused the flash flood.
2) The Highland Tower Collapse
December 1993. An apartment building in Taman Hillview, Ulu Klang collapsed after a 2-week continuous rainfall caused a landslide. Highland Towers comprised of 3 identical 12-storey blocks. On the tragic day, Block 1 collapsed and people immediately summoned the firefighters to the scene for a rescue mission, along with other authorities. The catastrophic event was the biggest challenge that the firefighters have ever encountered as they didn’t possess updated equipment. Thus, a better equipped team from France joined the mission. The rescue mission went on for over a week using heartbeat monitors. 4 survivors made it out alive, including an unharmed 18-month old baby. Eventually, they successfully recovered 48 bodies while the others remain “buried” within the wreckage. The residents from the other blocks had to evacuate for safety reasons, leaving the place now abandoned.
3) The Butterworth Tragedy
Unlike present day, ferry service was the only alternative to enter Penang in the 80’s. A Kwan Yin Festival and the anniversary of Church of St. Anne took place simultaneously. The events pulled a crowd of more than 10,000 to the Sultan Abdul Halim Ferry Terminal, including tourists from Hong Kong and Taiwan. The massive crowd proved to be too much for the terminal to handle. The 5-metre tall jetty collapsed at about 4:40pm without any warnings. Some victims fell into the sea as they were boarding the ferry. The steel structure of the platform also smashed tons of vehicles at the basement parking. The rescue team took hours to recover all the bodies using forklifts. In the aftermath, over 30 people lost their lives while 1,600 people suffered major and minor injuries.
4) Flight MH370 Goes Missing
Malaysian Airline Flight 370, en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur International Airport disappeared into thin air on the 8th of March, 2014. The plane took off at 1:07 A.M. and co-pilot, Fariq Abdul Ahmad made a final voice check at 1:19 am saying “All right, good night”. The plane apparently changed course before vanishing from Thai Military radar minutes later. It took a while for MAS to issue “code red” alert about the plane’s disappearance as they needed solid confirmation. When the flight did not make it to Beijing at 6:30 A.M. as scheduled, MAS announced the plane’s disappearance via Facebook. They discovered plane debris and MAS baggage tags months later as they washed off the shore in New South Wales. Eventually, they suspended all search and rescue missions after consuming approximately USD160 million and found no trace of the wreckage.
5) Hijacked And Crashed
MH370 was somehow believed to be hijacked but no one could find any evidence that linked to the theory. However, flight MH653 was hijacked before crashing at Tanjung Kupang, Johor, making it the first hijacking and fatal air crash in our country’s aviation history. It was a scheduled domestic fly from Penang to Kuala Lumpur. While nearing their destination, the pilots alerted the airport about the hijacking, before cutting off all communications. The hijackers demanded to quickly re-route to Singapore. Through the cockpit voice recorder, investigators heard arguments between the pilots and hijackers followed by a series of gunshots that killed the pilots. The death of the pilots left the plane without any professional control and it subsequently crashed into a swamp, leaving no survivors. Malaysian Agricultural Minister, Dato’ Ali Haji Ahmad was among the deceased. To this date, the motive and the organization behind the hijacking are still unknown.
Mother Nature may unleash her wrath upon us without any warning. But the dark side of a person is just as frightening. Tragedies attack in many forms, and sometimes we cannot foresee them.