JOHOR BARU: A university research centre has identified a total of 21,000 hotspots throughout the country in which landslides may occur.
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia centre of geotropic director Prof Edy Tonnizam Mohamad said Peninsular Malaysia had the most with 16,000 locations.
“There are 3,000 such sites in Sabah while Sarawak has 2,000 areas.
“Since 1995, there have been 420 deaths related to landslides and debris flows.
“The highest number of deaths ever recorded happened in Keningau, Sabah, where 300 people lost their lives,” he said when contacted.
Prof Edy, who has been researching landslides for the past 20 years, said slopes above 30 degrees were dangerous while those above 20 degrees were considered critical.
“High rainfall with poor mitigation system will reduce the earth strength, resulting in landslides.
“Landslides cause debris flow, which is more dangerous as it is a river of rock, earth and other debris saturated with water,” he said.
Debris flow happens when water rapidly accumulates in the ground during heavy rainfall where it changes the earth into a flowing river of mud.
As it flows rapidly and grows in size, it picks up trees, boulders or other materials along its way.
Prof Edy said landslides were not “something out of the ordinary” as they could happen even in thick jungle areas.
“However, hill cutting and uncontrolled development, especially when it is badly planned, hasten the process of landslides.
“The earth surface that we have in Malaysia is also one of the major contributors of the higher number of landslide hotspots compared with regional neighbours such as Singapore, Brunei and the Philippines,” he said.
Prof Edy pointed out that Hong Kong had faced similar problems due to rapid development that caused frequent landslides there.
He said the authorities there enforced new and stricter laws on development projects at hillside areas to avoid untoward incidents.