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Landslide kills 4, bans hillside projects

world Updated: Dec 06, 2008 19:35 IST

A massive landslide on the outskirts of Malaysia's largest city on Saturday killed four people and left one other person missing, prompting the government to ban all new hillside projects, officials said.

Thousands of residents were expected to be moved out of the hillside estate of Bukit Antarabangsa outside Kuala Lumpur after the landslide cut off access to housing areas just before dawn, a district police spokesman said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Television footage showed a number of houses destroyed by an avalanche of earth, tree and boulders.

The spokesman said rescuers had recovered the bodies of an Indonesian woman and three Malaysians. He said 15 people had been injured.

More than 500 police, army and medical personnel were deployed for search-and-rescue operations, he said, adding that they did not yet know the cause of the landslide.

Several landslides have caused damage in and around Kuala Lumpur in recent years. They are usually blamed on rapid development, deforestation and poor maintenance of drainage systems. Selangor state police Chief Khalid Abu Bakar was quoted by the national Bernama news agency as saying that rescuers would work through the night to locate one person believed trapped in the rubble of two houses. Fourteen houses were buried by the landslide, he said.

Khalid said up to 5,000 residents would be moved out of the area because it was still unstable.

Both Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and his deputy, Najib Razak, visited the area, which was close to the site of another landslide in Bukit Antarabangsa in 1993 in which a 12-story condominium block collapsed, killing 48 people.

Najib was quoted by The Star newspaper as saying the government would no longer issue permits for new hillside developments. An aide confirmed his comments but did not give further details. Abdullah also ordered all housing projects at Bukit Antarabangsa to be halted pending a soil stability study, The Star reported. Apart from recent heavy rain, Abdullah was quoted as saying he was told a building project near the area could have contributed to the disaster.