‘I watched my husband and 3 children die’

Orang Asli from Kampung Kuala Koh wear face masks to protect themselves from disease. (Bernama pic)

GUA MUSANG: “I was not even done grieving for my husband, and then my children died,” a devastated Som Yai said.

She had lost her husband and three of her children from a mysterious illness that gripped the Orang Asli settlement in Kampung Kuala Koh here.

Som, in her 50s, said it was heartbreaking to watch her husband, Hamdan Keladi, turning into a bag of bones before dying in her arms.

“He started losing weight and became feverish. He was breathless and began vomiting. I was so sad to see him that way,” she said, restraining her tears as she spoke to reporters at Felda Aring 10 here today.

Som was not even given time to mourn Hamdan’s passing as barely a week later her will was tested again when two of her children fell ill with the same symptoms. They died the same day.

Her daughter, Laila Hamdan, in her 30s, died at 8am followed by her son, Romi, 29, some eight hours later.

Four days later, she lost another son, Din, 18.

“I am so heartbroken. I think of the suffering they (husband and children) went through. We had tried everything to save them.

“I felt so helpless and just could not do anything any more. They were just lying there in pain and could not even eat or drink anything,” Som, who is now left with four children, said.

Hamdan and his three children were among 14 Orang Asli from the Batek tribe who died from a mysterious illness that hit their village in May.

Hamdan had also been the community’s chief for the past five years.

Som said another daughter, Asiah, in her 20s, is now suffering from the same illness.

She is grateful Asiah received treatment in hospital.

“She was warded for a few days and just got discharged,” she said.

Another son, Lan, in his 20s, said he had been foraying for jungle produce and honey. He had no inkling of the misfortune that had struck his family.

“When I got back to the village, not only was my father dead, my brothers and sister were gone while another sister was in hospital.

“We really hope to know soon what actually caused their deaths,” he said.


Meanwhile, police said three bodies of Batek tribe members found in search operations were brought out of the jungle at 6pm today and sent to the Gua Musang hospital for a post-mortem.

Gua Musang police chief Mohd Taufik Maidin said the remains are believed to be those of Din Hamdan, Fayah Papan, 19, and her sister, Safia, 18.

“They were buried within 2-5km of each other and believed to have died between May 20 and May 22.

“The remaining five bodies will be brought out in stages after this,” he told reporters at Felda Aring 10 here today.

Earlier today, police brought out the body of Puja a/p Joh, in her 20s, who was earlier confirmed to have died from pneumonia, to undergo a second post-mortem.

Asked about four more bodies said to be have been buried upstream of Sungai Lebir, Taufik said the search team will be heading there tomorrow.

“I was made to understand by Orang Asli trackers that the graves are deep in the jungle and would take about four or five hours along the river.

“We will go in early tomorrow so that the search team will not have to spend the night there,” he said.

Latest statistics obtained reveal that as of June 13, a total of 103 Orang Asli have received treatment, out of which 56 as outpatients while 42 were placed in normal wards and five more in the intensive care units of the Gua Musang hospital, Kuala Krai hospital and the Raja Perempuan Zainab II (HRPZII) hospital in Kota Bharu.

They comprise 50 male and 53 female patients, including 53 children.