At least 31 people were killed in a landslide that hit Father's Organic Farm, an unauthorised campsite located in Batang Kali on December 16, 2022. 61 people were rescued from the disaster which struck along a road near the campsite, around a 10-minute drive from Gohtong Jaya in Genting Highlands.
In the wee hours of December 16, campers slept peacefully in their tents, blissfully unaware of the oncoming tragedy.
"I heard a sound like thunder⚡, but it was the rocks falling," said Teh Lynn Xuan.
“We felt the tents becoming unstable and soil was falling around us. Luckily, I was able to leave the tent and go to some place safer. My mother and I managed to crawl out and save ourselves." Teh lost one of her brothers, while another was admitted to the hospital.
Search and rescue operations arrived at around 3 a.m. after a distress call was made at around 2:42 a.m. Rescue workers clambered over thick mud, fallen trees and other debris to get to the victims. Two of the three available campsites were completely smothered by the landslide.
Authorities said that a total of 92 people were caught in the landslide, revised from the earlier figure of 94. The Father's Organic Farm campsite operator reported 51 adults and 30 children registered to spend the night at the campsite. It was uncertain if there were any children below 4, as they were not required to register.
A fellow camper, Leong Jim Meng, recalls the incident as such:
"My family and I were trapped when the soil covered our tent. We managed to run to the parking lot and called the authorities. They arrived quite quickly, about 30 minutes later." Leong said that he and his family were not expecting the landslide, as there had only been light drizzles over the part few days.
According to a geology expert, the Batang Kali landslide was called an earthflow. Earthflow landslides do not happen immediately after heavy downpours, but instead when a slope of high fine-grained material becomes saturated - causing the formation of slip surfaces deep inside the ground.
Investigations later revealed that Father's Organic Farm did not have a valid license for camping activities. The Local Government Development Minister revealed that the operator only had the license to run an organic farm.
According to their Facebook page, the farm promoted family-friendly activities and eco-tourism packages including educational guides on organic vegetable farming. It also offered camping facilities and packages.
Visiting the scene of the landslide, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said RM10,000 will be given to the families of the deceased, and compassionate aid will be given to survivors. In view of the rainy forecast, the Deputy Prime Minister called for all campsites near slopes and next to rivers to be evacuated.
Natural disasters strike at the most unprecedented times. Although Malaysia may not be in the Ring of Fire, we are still exposed to life-threatening disasters like landslides and floods. Even if we are lucky enough to survive it, it is inevitable to suffer some losses.
Now you may be wondering, is there any way to prevent this? How can I overcome this adversity?
Well, we can't prevent natural disasters but we can prepare ourselves for rainy days. To protect material assets like our house or car, purchasing insurance would be enough to cover our losses.
Conventionally, most people would stop there - but have you ever considered a situation where you are injured and unable to work? That would cut off your source of income completely! Maybe some of you would have life insurance that could cover medical costs but you would ultimately end up digging into your savings to support yourself for a few months.
Ideally, you could set up a living trust which would come into effect during such dire circumstances. This could be, for instance, a monthly allowance of RM3,000 which would alleviate the loss of income and prevent you from sacrificing other funds.