Rescue efforts were halted overnight due to heavy rain but resumed on Saturday morning with sniffer dogs and excavators.
Rescue workers in Malaysia continue to search for 12 people still missing following a landslide that engulfed a campsite, killing 21 others, including five children.
Rescue efforts were hampered temporarily overnight on Friday due to heavy rain but picked back up in the early morning hours on Saturday as emergency response workers scrambled to locate any signs of life or human remains.
Rescue dogs and excavators were deployed to assist the rescue workers who used shovels to sift through mud and uprooted trees in search of victims.
Survivors said they had heard a deafening boom and that the earth shook before they were buried by the landslide inside their tents. According to officials, 94 people were sleeping at the Batang Kali campground on an organic farm northeast of the capital Kuala Lumpur when part of a hillside collapsed, sending mud and trees cascading from a road about 30 metres (some 100 feet) above the site.
All the victims were reportedly sleeping at the time the landslide – which covered approximately one hectare (2.5 acres) of land – enveloped their tents.
A total of 21 bodies have been removed from the site so far. An additional seven people were hospitalised, including three Singaporean nationals.
The disaster is unfolding amid Malaysia’s monsoon season when torrential rains are known to trigger landslides in the region surrounding Kuala Lumpur.
— Official Angkatan Pertahanan Awam Malaysia (@APMtwiter) December 17, 2022
Two of the victims, believed to be a mother and her young child, were found “in a state of embrace buried under the earth,” Norazam Khamis, director of the Selangor state fire and rescue department, told reporters on Friday.
Teh Lynn Xuan, 22, who was also camping at the site, said that her mother survived by crawling out of their tent after the landslide struck but said the destruction had killed one of her brothers and injured another.
“Everything happened too quickly,” she said.
“Let’s pray for the people of Malaysia and hope that this mission goes smoothly,” Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said in a statement.
Located about 50km (30 miles) north of Kuala Lumpur, the farm was known for renting tents to campers and had become a bustling recreational attraction for families looking to escape from the capital.
Officials say the farm was ultimately unlicensed for camping activities. Authorities suspect it had been illegally operating the campground for at least the past two years. The site’s operator could now face prosecution.