BATANG KALI, Malaysia ( Associated Press) — A mudslide at a tourist camp site in Malaysia killed 16 people Friday and authorities feared another 17 at the site on an organic farm on the outskirts of the capital, Kuala Lumpur. There is a possibility of being buried.
District police chief Sufien Abdullah said, according to an estimate, there were 94 Malaysians at the time of the incident at the Batang Kali camp, in Selangor state and about 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of Kuala Lumpur.
The death toll rose to 16, including a five-year-old boy, he said, adding that seven people had been hospitalized and rescue workers were searching for 17 others who were reported missing. In addition, 53 were rescued safely.
According to Sufiyan, the victims had reached the area on Wednesday, which is a popular recreation spot for locals to set up or rent tents on the farm. Over 400 soldiers including sniffer dogs are participating in the search and rescue operation.
The fire department said firefighters from Selangor started arriving at the scene half an hour after the distress call was received at 02:24. The rockfall occurred from a roadside at an estimated height of 30 meters (98 ft) and covered an area of approximately 1.2 hectares (3 acres). Images were broadcast in the early morning of rescue workers digging through dirt and debris with flashlights.
Some families with small children took shelter in a nearby police station after being rescued. Survivors said they heard a loud crash before falling to the earth.
Leong Jim Meng, 57, was quoted by the English-language New Straits Times newspaper as saying that a loud noise “that sounded like an explosion” woke him and his family and he felt the earth shake.
“My family and I were trapped as filth covered our tent. We managed to run to a parking area and we heard how a second landslide was happening,” he said, noting that it was surprising as there had been no heavy rainfall in recent days, only light drizzle.
The camp is located on an organic farm not far from the Genting Highlands Resort, a popular tourist destination with a theme park and Malaysia’s only casino. Access to the area was closed.