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Human error blamed for Malaysian landslide deaths

Malaysia’s Penang state government has stated that human error caused the landslide at a construction site last weekend, which killed 11 construction workers.

The incident occurred when cut slopes at the construction site for two 49 storey residential towers in Penang failed.

The local government’s natural resources and environment ministry said that the application for the project at the Tanjung Bungah site had been rejected because it was located close to a quarry site.

Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng said that a full inquiry would be undertaken.

Landslide expert and University of Sheffield pro-vice chancellor David Petley said: “With the combination of the quarry on the steep slopes behind the site, tipping upslope, and other construction in the vicinity, this looks like a very complex location in which to undertake a large development with extensive slope excavation.

“Inevitably, this significant failure is the subject of intense speculation in Malaysia, with questions being asked about the rate of development that is being undertaken in hillslope areas. I suspect that a key area of the investigation may well be the slope protection measures that were in place. It is clear that considerable slope cutting had been undertaken to create the site for the apartments. It seems surprising to me that these cuts, in apparently weathered materials, appear to have limited measures in place to ensure the stability of the slopes.”

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