SINGAPORE, Dec 17 — Despite the fatal pre-dawn landslide at Batang Kali in Malaysia yesterday, several transport operators said that travel to nearby Genting Highlands remains unaffected, even though some drivers acknowledged that they have reservations about the journey.
Three bus operators told TODAY on Friday afternoon that they have yet to see any customers from Singapore changing their minds about travelling to the popular hilltop area, which is less than 15km from the landslide site.
The landslide in Selangor state, which borders the federal territory containing the capital city Kuala Lumpur, occurred at about 3am on Friday.
The landslide fell from an estimated height of 30m above the campsite and covered an area of about 300 sqm.
It killed at least 21 people, including children, as they slept in their tents at Father’s Organic Farm, an unlicensed campsite.
Malaysia’s National Disaster Management Agency said that 94 people were caught in the landslide, with dozens still missing.
Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed on Friday evening that three Singaporeans were rescued by Malaysian authorities.
Malaysia’s Works Minister Alexander Nanta Linggi said that there are no visible cracks on the paved road in Batang Kali, which leads to Genting Highlands, but it has been ordered to be closed by the police anyway.
As a result, resort operator Resorts World Genting said in a travel advisory that guests travelling to and from its resort should use the Karak Highway via Genting Sempah until further notice.
‘So far, okay’
Transport operators told TODAY that the Karak Highway is the typical route that they ply from Singapore.
Yogaraja Subramanian, the owner of a Singapore-based minibus company, said that the road via Batang Kali is generally used by people coming from the direction of Ipoh to the north, because it would be a shorter journey to Genting.
When three larger coach operators — Transtar Travel, Ridewell Travel and 707 Inc — were asked if the disaster had spooked their respective customers, they said that they have not heard of it.
An employee at 707 Inc, who wanted to be known only as Amy, said that departures towards Genting Highlands on Friday night and Saturday morning were going ahead as usual.
“So far, okay,” she said, adding that the company’s drivers had not yet expressed any concerns about driving towards Genting Highlands.
Ridewell’s director, Ivan Neo, declined to answer more questions from TODAY, while an employee who answered the phone at Transtar Travel said that she was not authorised to speak to the media.
Yogaraja said that although his company has no immediate bookings for Genting Highlands, he gets requests for the destination at least three times a month.
His drivers in Kuala Lumpur reported that it is safe to drive up to Genting for now, though they would prefer to do it in drier conditions.
Given that December falls within the northeast monsoon season, he said that the heavy rain does make some of his drivers feel apprehensive because “anything can occur at any time”.
Landslides have been a recurring problem in Malaysia. In 1995, 20 people were killed after a landslide hit a slip road in Genting Highlands and buried at least 10 cars.
News of the latest tragedy has not caused at least one prospective holidaymaker to put off her travel plans to Genting Highlands with her husband and her old friends in March next year.
The 68-year-old retiree, who wanted to be known only as Chan, had just returned from a family vacation in Genting last month.
“We drove up in our car and the roads seemed fine,” she said in Mandarin.
Chan believes that it would be even safer when she makes the journey in March.
“I think they (the authorities and the local businesses) would be working to secure the area because they wouldn’t want tourists to stop coming.”
Her accommodation for the visit in March has already been booked.
Closer to their travel date, she and her travel companions will reassess the situation and if there are signs that things have not improved, they will cancel the trip, she added. — TODAY