No more deaths??? Already 3 died!

October 29th, 2009 by poobalan | View blog reactions Leave a reply »
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update on 30/10/2009. from the Star:

It was an emotional scene at drowned victim V. Divyashree’s home in Taman Changkat Golf here with her distraught father chasing away her schoolmates.

The grief-stricken father seemed on the verge of a breakdown as he yelled at the top of his voice for the group of pupils from SJK (T) Gopeng to leave.

The sight of school uniforms was too much for him.

”Don’t send children to school. They are all killing them,” K. Vasudevan, 34, who works as a technician in Kuala Lumpur, repeatedly screamed as a few men tried to restrain him and calm him down.

The dozen of schoolchildren, who were also crying, obeyed and waited at a house across the road.

“Her father was very upset to see us. He said that he didn’t want to see anyone wearing school uniforms.

“But then, we only wanted to say our goodbyes to Divyashree,” said one of them.

The children were later ushered into the house when Vasudevan finally calmed down and remained outside the house.

Divyashree’s 41-year-old mother R. Kana-kam fainted a few times. She had been briefly warded at the Kampar Hospital after fainting outside its mortuary.

In grief: Devatharshini‘s parents Mageswaran and Nagaratana watching over their daughter’s coffin at their home in Mambang Diawan Thursday.

Gopeng MIC branch Wanita chief P. Sarojini, who is a close friend of the family, said the couple could not accept the death of their eldest daughter.

“They had believed she was merely lost in the jungle. The truth only hit them at the mortuary,” she said.

Sarojini said Divyashree was an intelligent and obedient girl, and that she had been her parent’s hope for a brighter future.

“She would wake up at 4am in the morning to study.

“She would always tell me how good it would be if she could get RM100 for every A she obtains in her UPSR examination so she could give the money to her parents.

“In fact, she was the one who encouraged her parents to take part in the Human Resources Ministry’s retraining scheme in Kuala Lumpur so the family could have a better life.

“She did not mind being left behind with her younger sister in a neighbour’s house,” Sarojini said.

The scene at the home of M. Devatharshini in Taman Diawan, Mambang Diawan in Kampar, was relatively calmer.

Her father K. Mageswaran, whose eyes were swollen from too much crying, said his daughter’s death seemed surreal.

“Sometimes, I have to sit and think if all this is real. I keep wishing that it is just a dream.

“She was our only daughter and I loved her the most,” the father said, breaking down into tears.

Relating the last time he saw his daughter, Mageswaran said he had arrived home at noon and saw Devatharshini leaving on her bicycle.

“She had clothes and things packed in her basket. She started crying when she saw me and pleaded with me to allow her to go to the camp.

“She wrote a letter to her mother and placed it on the altar, begging for her mother’s forgiveness and blessings,” he added.

Mageswaran later received RM3,000 from the Ngan Yin Groundnut Factory Sdn Bhd where his wife, R. Nagaratana works as a packer.

Mageswaran added that he would consider taking up the free legal advice offered by Perak DAP to sue the Education Ministry, the Kampar education department and contractors of the bridge over the incident.

Perak executive councillor Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon, who visited both families, told reporters that the state government would help out the victims’ families with a contribution of RM10,000 each.

——–

Its saddening and maddening to read about the death of 3 students, all girls aged between 11 and 12, who perished when the hanging bridge across Sungai Kampar gave way on Monday night 10.30pm. The students were part of 294 (or 298) students  aged between 10 and 12, from 64 schools in Kinta Selatan district,  who attended a  four-day 1Malaysia camp organised by the Education Ministry to foster better ties between the races. There were between 23 and 25 teachers as well. The camp was held at the Kinta Selatan district education office co-curriculum centre in SK Kuala Dipang, Jeram.

Image From NST

It was heartbreaking indeed for the parents and family who were assembled at the spot since Monday. Bright students have left their families.

The deceased are:

1. Dina Deve Nathan, 11, body recovered On Tuesday morning 8.40am, in Kampung Pasir, about 2km downstream. She was a student from SJK Tamil Mamban Diawan.

“She was always reading and studying — that’s my Dina. She was such a smart girl,” said Dina’s elder brother Thanageswaran, 18.

Pasted on the walls of the girl’s little “study corner” was her study timetable — at school and after school, her poems — in English and Tamil and an ambitious target list for her future school examinations — 5As for UPSR, 7As for PMR, 10As for SPM.

“She already aimed to get straight As for every single examination that she would sit for – even though she was just in primary five!” said Dina’s aunt and best buddy Ragani Ramadas. “She told me she wanted to get excellent results so that a picture of her wearing a mortar board would get published in the newspapers,” Ragani said, while holding back her tears.

“Unfortunately, that’s never going to happen. It’s a massive loss to the family.” Dina, the second child of three siblings studied in SJK(T) Mambang Di Awan.

Her mother, S. Mogana, initially hesitated whether to allow her to attend the school camp.

But Dina was very keen to go, and after much persuasion, her mother went to see the school teacher.

“My mother asked the teacher if it would be safe for little Dina, and the teacher assured her that Dina would be taken care of,” said  Thanageswaran. It was her first camping trip, and the first time she was going  somewhere on her own. – Malay Mail.

2. Devatharshini Maheswaran, 11, body found at  11.30pm on Wednesday in Tanjung Tualang about 16km from the incident site. She was a student from SJK Tamil Mamban Diawan.

Father Maheswaran and uncle Thiyagarajan lambasted the organisers for allowing so many children to cross the bridge at one time and without proper supervision.

“They tell us that the bridge collapsed because the children were jumping on it,” said Maheswaran.

“So why did they allow so many on it? Did they even know the maximum load of the bridge? Children are playful it’s natural for them to jump up and down.

“The organisers should not make excuses, it’s their responsibility to ensure that it is fit for the children to use,” he said.

The children’s camp involving upper primary school students from Ipoh, Kinta and Kampar was a 1Malaysia programme, aimed at promoting integration among school children.

“I have nothing against the programme; the 1Malaysia concept is very good,” said Maheswaran.

“But you can’t forcefully organise this just to appear good on paper at the expense of the children’s safety.” Thiyagarajan questioned the shoddy construction of the bridge. “Did you see the collapsed bridge?

Did you take a closer look at the foundation? It was very poor, and yet it’s brand new. “Who was the contractor? How much did it cost?” – Malay Mail.

3. Divyashree Vasudevan, 12, body was recovered at about 9.25am Thursday in in Sungai Chenderiang near Tronoh Mines, 15km away (Bernama said 25km away). She was a student from SRJK Gopeng.

Her father, K. Vasudevan, said she was a brilliant student, and was awarded the “Anugerah Pelajar Harapan” by her school, SJK (T) Gopeng.

A quiet, disciplined and obedient pupil, Divyashree was also a school prefect. “During her recent UPSR trial examinations, she scored 5As and 2Bs,” her father added.

“She aimed for straight As in her UPSR, and she asked for a laptop as a present. She enjoyed attending extra co-curricular programmes like attending the camp and I’ve never stopped her. I knew it’s a benefit for her, and in fact, I encouraged her to go,” said Vasudevan, a technician. – Malay Mail.

Vasudevan also asks:

“It’s a good programme, but the organisers did not handle it properly. For starters, why were the children told to have dinner at such a late hour at 10pm? And why was there no supervision by adults at all times?”

For a small community, the loss of three young people is indeed more hurting.

Between 30 and 50 students were on the suspension bridge when it collapsed on Monday night.  Some managed to hang on to the bridge while others fell into the river. Nineteen of them were rescued while the three were swept away by the swift currents. It was raining in recent days and the current was strong.

According to Star:

The incident occurred near the location of another tragedy which took place in 1996 where a mudslide swept away the Orang Asli settlement of Pos Dipang, killing 44 people.

The search and rescue operation involved 222 personnel led by the police, with assistance from the General Operations Force, navy, fire and rescue department, People’s Volunteer Corps (Rela), Civil Defence Department and other agencies. Villagers also joined in the search. K-9 units, and scuba divers were also involved.

The incident:

According to Malay Mail, the students had cameon Monday for the registration and were walking across the bridge from the campsite to the school to have their dinner when the accident happened.

According to Bernama reports:

Those who survived the incident said they had supper at SK Kuala Dipang and were crossing the bridge to get to the campsite, when a few of them started jumping and shaking the bridge.

It was later found that a metal pillar anchoring the cable of the bridge was ripped off its concrete foundation, causing the bridge walkway, with those on it, to plunge into the river.

Some pupils fell into shallower waters and managed to wade out, while others were pulled out by a teacher who was nearby and ran to the scene of the incident.

The iron-cable bridge, suspended nine metres above the river, was built recently to replace an old one that had fallen apart with age.

It seems the bridge was built about two weeks ago only.

Student Mathivannan:

A pupil, K. Mathivanan, 12, said the bridge collapsed all of a sudden when about 30 to 50 pupils were on it, some walking to the school and others returning to the campsite.

He said the bridge had swayed a lot before it collapsed as several of the pupils were jumping about and playing with one another.

“All of a sudden, we found ourselves thrown into the river. I managed to hold on to a rope. The current was swift but I managed to drag myself out of the water,” he said.

The bridge, about 50 metres long, was built about two weeks ago to replace an old one which had collapsed, said a member of the school’s Parent-Teacher Association.

Teacher Safri:

A teacher, Mohd Safri Abdul Rafar, said he was not far from the bridge when it collapsed and quickly jumped over a fence and dived into the river in the attempt to rescue the pupils.

“I managed to pull out three or four pupils. The current was swift and I almost got dragged away,” he said. Safri said he went into the river again and pulled out five more pupils.

However, Safri said he was sad that he could not rescue a pupil who had held onto a metal cable before being dragged away by the current.

Student Aziz Teng:

According to one of the survivors, Mohd Azid Teng, 12, from SKJC Bemban near Kampar, the pupils had had supper at SK Kuala Dipang and were crossing the bridge to get to the camping site when a few of the pupils started jumping and shaking the bridge.

The bridge then gave way and he found himself falling into the river along with the other screaming pupils.

Fortunately, he fell into shallow waters and waded out.

Meanwhile, Malay Mail reported that:

A TEAM from the Perak Public Works Department (PWD) has begun investigating the collapse of the  suspension bridge at the 1Malaysia Co-Curriculum Centre at Kuala Dipang, Kampar.

Officials were seen using an instrument called the Rebound Hammer to test the strength of the concrete used in the foundation of the bridge.

The test will reveal the quality of concrete used in the foundation and whether or not the foundation was designed to hold the bridge in place.

It is believed that the suspension bridge collapsed after part of the foundation on the banks of Sungai Kampar came off completely and landed on the bridge itself.

Perak MB says:

“The suspension bridge was newly built. We want to know if it was built to specifications as it collapsed after a metal pillar got ripped off the ground,” he said.

A metal pillar and its concrete block foundation got ripped off the ground in the incident and part of the bridge walkway was afloat on the river.

The Kampar River is known for extreme water sports. The part of the river where the bridge collapsed is about 30 metres wide and 1.5 metres deep.

Bernama report:

A villager said the way the bridge was constructed had given rise to questions, especially pertaining to the size of the base concrete block which did not match the metal pillars which held the cables.

Fire Department says:

In Putrajaya, Fire and Rescue Services Department director-general Datuk Hamzah Abu Bakar said that initial investigations revealed that the anchor for the bridge’s cable failed, The Star’s Dharmender Singh reported.

The anchor was pulled out and the bridge gave way. But why it gave way is yet to be ascertained, he said.

The river level late Monday had been relatively low but the current was strong as it had been raining upstream and this could have carried the missing children further away, he said.

An engineer was quoted in TV3 news tonight saying that there was no piling done.  The land beside the river is not stable, thus should have steel rods inserted in the concrete foundation. Also, the riverside should have barriers, and the concrete foundation was not thick enough. The load of the bridge was also not provided.

So far, the Education Ministry had approved RM10,000 to the family of Dina Deve two days ago. National Welfare Foundation donated RM2,000 each to the three families. The money will not be able to replace the void left by the deceased. I hope the families will initiate legal action. Perhaps those political parties, NGOs etc can help out in this manner. MHS or temple committees also can help to organise prayers for the deceased.

The Action:

DPM Muhyiddin, who is also Education Minister, ordered the setting up of a committee headed by Director-General of Education Tan Sri Alimuddin Mohd Dom to investigate the collapse of the bridge. The committee would also have representatives from the Public Works Department (JKR) and the Perak government.

“We will give the committee sufficient time to prepare a complete and detailed report,” Muhyiddin told reporters at the scene. Also present were Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir, Works Minister Datuk Shaziman Abu Mansor and Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha.

MACC is also ready to investigate the incident for elements elements of irregularity in the construction of the bridge. Perak MACC had already opened an investigation:

Meanwhile in a related development, a Perak Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) spokesperson said that an investigation has been opened on the construction of the suspension bridge.

He said that initial findings revealed that the bridge could have been build without the approval of the Public Works Department.

“We will investigate if there are elements of corruption, in addition to finding whether there is a violation or disregard for proper procedures which should have been followed in the first place.”

“We will investigate the matter thoroughly. The MACC feels there could be a strong case (for either corruption or wrongful procedure),” the MACC spokesperson told Malaysiakini.

Malaysiakini provides another info:

Sources also revealed that the construction of the suspension bridge which had collapsed and killed three pupils was done without the approval from the Perak PWD.

It is learnt that a prior approval from the PWD was compulsory for all government buildings or projects.

Question on everyone’s lips – who to be blamed?

DPM Muhyiddin said that there will be no more deaths. But that was not a promise. There’s no accountability there. Would there be a special unit set up to monitor outdoor activities and safety of students? Would the Education Minister resign if there’s another death? Who will take the responsibility? I also can say alot, claiming this and that won’t happen. Talk is easy, but where’s the accountability? Let’s see what the commitee investigation reveals and who has the guts to stand up and be accountable.

Its clear that some rules were not followed or non-existent. Perhaps the rainy season made the foundation weak or the concrete not really dry. There was no signage on weight capacity or number of students allowed on the bridge. There was no report that a teacher was standing in the middle of the bridge to monitor the students. The current was strong, so was there any warning to the students to cross carefully or maybe to not use the bridge at all? Some students said they already taken dinner and going the opposite way, while another group was heading towards their dinner. So, two groups walking on the bridge? No control?

Next would be the procedure involved in building the bridge. May need to enrol civil engineers to provide assessment of the damage. Parents may want to hire independent examiners as part of their legal suit.  IEM want to volunteer anyone? This investigation need to go back to the architect, QS, the civil engineer, company, contractors, etc. Any rules broken or not adequate?

Where is the company that built the bridge? No statement from them yet to deny or even say that will start investigation? Or even a condolence message? Who is involved in that company? Why the company gave the bridge as gift? Any related projects done by the company for Education Department? Who are the owners? Look back at all the previous projects of the company – get PWD to assessment the structures as well. Auditors to evaluate if project award was done according to procedure.

Should the camping program go on? I’ll say yes (and easy to say yes, since not my kids involved. Parents surely will be thinking twice now), but provided proper mechanism are in place to avoid such disasters. Teachers should be trained properly to handle outdoor events, and also emergency procedures. No point blaming them as they only “ikut arahan”. Organisers must be sent for courses so that they in turn can organise the events safely.

What I fear is that this is just the tip of the iceberg. nearly 30 years of uncontrolled rapid development may bear its poisonous fruits now. LDP had cracks. Roof of stadium collapsed. School wall collapsed. Hospital roof leaking. Parliament roof also leaking. Putrajaya building also got broken pipes. Shoddy work coupled with lousy maintenance culture – recipe for disaster.

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