Sunday 21 October 2018

Four confirmed dead following landslide in Penang State, Malaysia.

Four people have been confirmed dead and five more are missing following a landslide in Penang State, Penninsula Malaysia, on Friday 19 October 2018. The incident happened slightly before 2.00 pm local time, hitting a camp where foreign nationals working on a road construction site were staying, injuring three and burying a further ten, none of whom are expected to be found alive. The three bodies found have been identified as three men, Samsul Asman, 19, and Bahtiar, 36, from Indonesia, and Attrul, 35, from Bangladesh, and one woman, Khin Aye Khaing, 33, from Myanmar., while the five missing people have been named as Mohamad Ujal, 33, and Mohamad Rajan, 25, Mithu Hossain, 30 and Md Jalil, 34, from Bangladesh, and Subairi from Indonesia. The search for more bodies is being led by sniffer Dog units from the Penang Fire and Rescue Department.

The scene of a landslide where ten foreign guest workers are feared to have died in Penang State, Malaysia, on 9 October 2018. Bernama.

The incident happened amid heavy rains associated with the Southwest Monsoon, Landslides are a common problem after severe weather events, as excess pore water pressure can overcome cohesion in soil and sediments, allowing them to flow like liquids, and areas around construction sites are often particularly vulnerable as the soil is directly exposed to heavy tropical rainfall.

Malaysia has two distinct Monsoon Seasons, with a Northeast Monsoon driven by winds from  the South China Sea that lasts from November to February and a Southwest Monsoon driven by winds from the southern Indian Ocean from March to October. Such a double Monsoon Season is common close to the equator, where the Sun is highest overhead around the equinoxes and lowest on the horizons around the solstices, making the solstices the coolest part of the year and the equinoxes the hottest.
 The winds that drive the Northeast and Southwest Monsoons in Southeast Asia. Mynewshub.

Monsoons are tropical sea breezes triggered by heating of the land during the warmer part of the year (summer). Both the land and sea are warmed by the Sun, but the land has a lower ability to absorb heat, radiating it back so that the air above landmasses becomes significantly warmer than that over the sea, causing the air above the land to rise and drawing in water from over the sea; since this has also been warmed it carries a high evaporated water content, and brings with it heavy rainfall. In the tropical dry season the situation is reversed, as the air over the land cools more rapidly with the seasons, leading to warmer air over the sea, and thus breezes moving from the shore to the sea (where air is rising more rapidly) and a drying of the climate.

  Diagrammatic representation of wind and rainfall patterns in a tropical monsoon climate. Geosciences/University of Arizona.

Malaysia has become increasingly landslip-prone in recent years due to extensive deforestation, which leaves soil exposed to heavy tropical rainfall. Concerns have also been raised about the large number of construction sites on steep hillslopes in urban areas, where workers are particularly vulnerable to landslip events during the Monsoon Seasons.

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