GEORGE TOWN: The Public Works Department (PWD) today said the cause of the landslide in Batu Ferringhi last night was due to unauthorised earthworks at the bottom of the slope, causing it to give way.
Penang PWD director Shahabuddin M Muhayidin said this was based on preliminary inspections at the site.
PWD will undertake immediate repairs and take measures to prevent further erosion on the slope, he told reporters at Komtar today.
Last night, a slope separating Lost Paradise Resort and Jalan Batu Ferringhi (George Town-bound) gave way while work was going on to build a retaining wall. The earth buried four workers alive.
Shahabuddin said for the time being, the PWD will strengthen the slope with sheet piles.
It will close one of the two lanes of the road to allow for these repairs, expected to be completed in three to four weeks, and to ensure the safety of motorists.
Flagmen would be on duty to ensure smooth traffic flow.
He urged motorists to take alternative routes to Batu Ferringhi.
The road is the only decent, meandering road to Batu Ferringhi and was built in the 1920s.
It is regarded as the primary road to get to the tourist town. The other option is to use a road via Balik Pulau, but it is rarely used as it is a narrow and winding road.
Penang Island City Council mayor Yew Tung Seang said it did not receive any application from the Lost Paradise Resort to carry out slope-strengthening works.
He said the landowner is liable under Section 70A of the Street, Drainage and Building Act 1974 for not obtaining permission from the city council to start earthworks on their property.
The said section carries a penalty of five years’ jail or RM50,000 fine, or both.
“If you drive past the area, it is hard to see if there is any work being carried out there. We hope the public can become our eyes and ears and report to us any illegal work being carried out. We will not hesitate to take action,” Yew said.
Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said the Penang government had conveyed its deepest condolences to the families of the four Myanmar men who died.
He hoped the city council, police, PWD and the Department of Occupational Safety and Health would probe the matter urgently and prosecute those involved if there were grounds for an offence.
“It appears the work was being carried out without any engineering expertise. The landowner had taken it upon himself to improve what was deemed faulty.
“But the way it was done has caused movement of earth, despite there being no rain.”