All I could do was scream, says worker who survived Penang landslide

The son of one of the Myanmar workers who died in the Batu Ferringhi landslide prays at the Dhammikarama Burmese Temple in Pulau Tikus.

GEORGE TOWN: A Myanmar construction worker told a harrowing tale this week about how he nearly died in last Tuesday’s landslide which occurred at a resort in Batu Ferringhi.

The worker, who wanted to be identified as Zaw, 30, said he could only scream when he saw four of his countrymen buried by mounds of collapsing earth hardly two feet away from him.

He said he and the four others had been tying steel rods together in a placeholder of what was supposed to be a column when the earth shook and the slope above collapsed.

“I thought it was an earthquake. I saw them go down in the mud so quickly.

“I was so close, just about two feet away. I screamed for help,” he said when met by FMT at the Dhammikarama Burmese Temple in Pulau Tikus here yesterday.

A group of parents at a learning centre in the landslide-hit resort had organised a prayer session for the four victims at the temple.

The session was held by a group of monks at the temple, who were joined by well-wishers from the learning centre.

Aung Tung Aye, 49, Nai Cho Inn, 49, Mg Htwe, 38, and Mg Seng Pya, 38, died after being buried in the landslide which occurred at the hill slope separating the resort and Jalan Batu Ferringhi last Tuesday night.

Authorities say a preliminary investigation into the incident showed that illegal earthworks had taken place at the resort portion of the slope, which caused it to crumble.

Zaw, who comes from the port city of Moulmein, southeast of Myanmar, said he was shaken up by the landslide and wanted to return home.

A group from the Dana Kutalaa Funeral Service Association Penang at the prayer service.

“I can’t sleep. I keep thinking of it, you know. I am going back, I am going to hug my nine-year-old daughter so I can forget about what happened,” the worker said in Malay.

When asked about the work they were doing, Zaw said he was not too sure, but that they had been told to pour concrete where required.

A parent who did not want to be named said the Myanmar men who died in the incident had been very close to them, as they had been there long before the landslide.

The parent said over the years, they had formed a friendship with the workers who also lived within the resort compound, some with their wives.

They were also concerned about the son of one of the workers who had died. The boy, who had grown up at the resort since a toddler, is five.

“Over the years, they have become very close to us, as we would drop our children off and they are somewhat like the caretakers of the resort.

“This prayer session is the least we could do,” the parent said, adding that one of the workers had been with the resort for over seven years.

Another parent who wanted to remain anonymous said construction work was “common” in the resort area and that most people did not pay attention to what was taking place.

“I remember a tile in one of the classrooms popped and they were quick to repair it. As for the landslide area, it was just full of greenery and trees. I never expected it to give way,” the parent said.

The Dana Kutalaa Funeral Service Association Penang, a Myanmar workers’ support group, said it would help cremate the bodies of the four workers at the Bukit Gantong Crematorium over the weekend.

A group representative said it had received written permission from the Myanmar embassy to claim the bodies from the Penang Hospital.

FMT has contacted the resort’s management and owners for comment and is awaiting their reply.