KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) -Malaysian police have called in staff members from an unlicensed campsite to assist in an investigation into a landslide that flattened the camp grounds and killed at least 24 people, as the search for missing people continued for a third day on Sunday.
The victims, including seven children, died after a landslide tore through the campsite early on Friday while they slept in tents at Batang Kali, a popular hilly area about 50km (30 miles) north of capital Kuala Lumpur.
Of the 94 people caught in the landslide, 61 were safe and nine still missing, the Selangor state fire and rescue department said.
Search and rescue teams have increased the number of excavators and rescue dogs to find campers who may be trapped under mud and debris, with heavy rain raising concern of further landslides.
Hulu Selangor police chief Suffian Abdullah said police have questioned the operator and two workers of the campsite at Father’s Organic Farm.
Authorities have said its owners were allowed to operate organic farms, but had not applied for licences to run three campsites on the property.
The farm owners did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“Our hearts are closely connected with you, may the deceased rest in peace… Pray for the survivors and the injured,” it said on Facebook in a statement addressing victims and their families.
State fire and rescue chief Norazam Khamis on Saturday said the chance of finding more survivors was slim given the lack of oxygen and weight of mud pressing down on the site.
An initial investigation showed an embankment of around 450,000 cubic metres of earth had collapsed. The earth fell from an estimated height of 30 metres (100 ft) and covered an area of about an acre (0.4 hectares).
On Saturday night, the family of 31-year-old Nurul Azwani Kamarulzaman, who perished in the tragedy, grieved as they held her funeral at a cemetery in Kuala Lumpur.
Nurul Azwani, a kitchen helper at a school canteen, was on a two-night trip with teachers and students. She was scheduled to return on Friday, the day of the disaster.
“We never expected a natural disaster to happen,” her brother-in-law, Mohd Shazwan Ashraf Mohamad Saberi, told Reuters. “We are still unable to process this.”
Landslides are common in Malaysia but typically occur only after heavy rain. Flooding is also common, with about 21,000 people displaced last year by torrential rain in seven states.