A landslide killed at least 12 people as they slept at a campsite in Malaysia early Friday, officials said, as search teams combed through thick mud and uprooted trees to find more than 20 people still missing.
The landslide in Selangor state, outside the capital Kuala Lumpur, occurred at around 3am (1900 GMT) and brought down a hill on an organic farm with facilities for camping, the state fire and rescue department said in a statement.
Teh Lynn Xuan, 22, said he was camping with 40 other people when the landslide occurred. He said one of his brothers died, while another was in hospital.
“I heard a loud sound like thunder, but it was rocks falling,” he told Malay-language newspaper Berita Haria. “We felt the tents becoming unstable and the earth falling around us. Luckily, I was able to get out of the tent and go to a safer place. My mother and I managed to crawl out and save- us”.
More than 90 people were trapped in the landslide and 59 have been found safe, with 22 still missing, according to the Fire and Rescue Service.
In addition to the 12 dead, eight were hospitalized, he said.
One of the people taken to hospital was pregnant, while others had injuries ranging from minor cuts to a suspected spinal injury, Health Minister Zaliha Mustafa told a news conference.
District police chief Suffian Abdullah said the dead were all Malaysian and included a boy aged about 5.
Nearly 400 people from various agencies had been deployed, with search and rescue efforts underway, he told a news conference.
The landslide came down from an estimated height of 30 meters (100 feet) above the campsite and covered an area of about one acre (0.4 hectares), according to the state director of the fire and rescue department.
Local television footage showed the aftermath of a large landslide through a steep forested area next to a road, while other images on social media showed rescue workers clambering over thick mud, large trees and other debris.
I pray that the missing victims can be found safely soon,” Malaysian Minister of Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, one of several ministers heading to the scene, tweeted on Friday morning. “The rescue team has been working since early. I’ll go down there today.”
The disaster occurred about 50 km (30 miles) north of Kuala Lumpur in the town of Batang Kali, on the outskirts of the popular hilltop area of Genting Highlands, an area known for its resorts, waterfalls and natural beauty .
Bernama news agency tweeted that all campsites and water recreation areas around Batang Kali had been ordered to close immediately until further notice, citing the home minister.
The images posted on the Father’s Ecological Farm Facebook page show a farmhouse in a small valley, with a large area where tents can be set up.
Selangor is the richest state in the country and has experienced landslides before, often attributed to forest and land clearing.
The region is in its rainy season, but no heavy rains or earthquakes have been recorded overnight.