23 October 2017
Tanjung Bungah: a major construction site landslide in Malaysia that killed 11 people
A landslide at a construction site at Tanjung Bungah, which is a suburb of George Town in Penang in NW Malaysia, on Saturday killed 11 site workers. The slide, which occurred at the construction site for two 49 storey residential towers, is known to have killed workers from Indonesia, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Pakistan, as well as the site supervisor from Malaysia. The best image that I have seen of the failure is this one, via the Sun Daily:
Whilst this image, from The Peninsular, gives a better impression of the scale of the landslide:-
Inevitably, this significant failure is the subject of intense speculation in Malaysia, with questions being asked about the rate of development that is being undertaken in hillslope areas. I suspect that a key area of the investigation may well be the slope protection measures that were in place. It is clear that considerable slope cutting had been undertaken to create the site for the apartments. It seems surprising to me that these cuts, in apparently weathered materials, appear to have limited measures in place to ensure the stability of the slopes. Interestingly, The Star newspaper in Malaysia has some drone imagery taken if the site in July that appears to show that this section of the cut slope was facing stability issues:-
Malaysia has a long history of substantial landslides, some of which have been associated with major construction projects. Back in 2012 Malaysia produced a National Slope Masterplan, although sadly this is no longer available online. Interestingly, news reports suggest that the Department of Environment rejected plans for this project in 2015. A Commission of Inquiry has been established to look into this landslide.