Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Students ‘jungle trek’ home after landslide

KOTA BELUD: Like any other afternoon, Jonathan Evilce was glad that he finally reached home, but the 15-year-old student was extra relieved yesterday as the usual bus ride home from school involved some ‘jungle trekking’.

“It was a very challenging journey. We had to walk on slippery paths and keep our balance to avoid falling down the steep hill,” he said.

The Form Three boy of SMK Bundu Tuhan was among 32 students who were forced to take an alternative route created by villagers after the only road linking three villages in Kadamaian here collapsed in a landslide in the wee hours yesterday.

He said his parents never stopped calling to find out their situation.

“They were surely glad to see me home safely,” Jonathan said.

“Throughout our journey, I could hear cracking sounds, probably from broken branches and trees, as the earth were still actively moving.

“We all kept close to each other, no one was to be left behind alone. A few adults were ahead and some were also walking behind us as we scaled the hill. They were clearing a detour for us.”

Jonathan, who normally takes the bus to school, said they had to walk as the road was closed following advice from the Public Works Department.

“We were also excused from attending school until the situation has improved. Actually it is our mid-term examination this week, but we are allowed to sit for our papers after we return to school,” he said.

A villager, Sindi Taliban, 62, said he and a few others took on the task to clear the detour after realising that the children’s lives could be in danger.

“It took us over an hour to find safe alternative routes, but still they had to go through the jungle and slippery paths,” he said.

Sindi said that they felt signs that there would be a massive landslide since a decade ago.

“We noticed that the soil moving and the road cracking bit by bit over the past few years, but they kept repairing it. We did complaint and some officials from the government department did come to check and took soil samples. Apart from that, nothing was done except to put up the signboard that it is a landslide area.

“The situation got worst about a week ago; there was non-stop raining. We became worried and feared for the worst. In fact, a few villagers, including me, parked our vehicles closer to the main road since the night before, which turned out to be the best decision,” he said.

The landslide, he said, happened at around 4am, causing some 500 metres of the road to collapse.

“We expected the worst but never thought it would be this bad. This is just shocking,” he said.

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