24 October 2018
George Town: another major fatal landslide in Penang, Malaysia
On 19th October a significant landslide occurred in George Town, Penang in Malaysia, killing nine construction workers located in temporary accommodation at the foot of the slope. The landslide, at the Bukit Kukus paired road site, occurred on a large slope that had been cut as part of the highway construction project:-
The landslide appears to be a fairly conventional failure in residual / deeply weathered soil, and reports suggest that it was triggered by heavy rainfall. The accommodation for the workers consisted of a set of containers, offering little protection to the victims:-
Inevitably questions are going to be asked about the construction practices at this site. Aliran has an interesting article about the operations at the site, noting that head of the Perlis, Kedah and Penang Department of Mineral and Geoscience, Azhari Ahmad, has raised questions about the ways in which surface water was being managed. This is a legitimate concern given the nature of the slope behind the cut section. I suspect that questions will also be asked about the ways in which this large cut slope was being drained and supported during the construction works; the ethos must be that all temporary earthworks are stable, so something went badly awry here. And finally, questions will need to be asked about the location of worker accommodation at the toe of a major cut slope.
This landslide is close to the large slope failure in George Town in November 2017, which caused extensive damage to a new residential development site. In October 2017 a major slide happened at Tanjung Bungah, also in Penang, killing 11 workers. Notably, all three landslides occurred during construction.