News: Mayor: Retaining wall outdated

The Star, 30 Dec 2012

KUALA LUMPUR: The retaining wall in Bukit Setiawangsa was the wrong type which was why it partially collapsed, destroying a luxury bungalow and putting more than 100 homes and shops in jeopardy.

The startling revelation by Mayor Datuk Ahmad Phesal Talib has now raised fears that similar walls may also be at risk.

He told a press conference last night that the shotcrete retaining wall, which was built in 1992, would not have been approved today as it would not have met present specifications.

“If the developer had applied to build the same wall today, it would not be approved as it would not meet the Oct 10, 2010 guidelines on hillslope developments.

“If the wall was built in accordance with those guidelines, the landslide would not have happened,” he said.

However, he also said nobody could be blamed for the landslide as the developer had adhered to the previous guidelines.

Asked why the wall was not rebuilt in order to comply with the 2010 guidelines, Ahmad Phesal said the developer, I&P Group Sdn Bhd, monitored and conducted maintenance work on the wall in 2007.

“Despite this, the wall still collapsed,” he added.

It is not known how many such shotcrete walls have been built on unsuitable soil conditions but the mayor said City Hall would urgently review those within its jurisdiction.

The landslide occurred at 10pm on Friday in the posh neighbourhood of Bukit Setiawangsa, which comprised luxury bungalows, boutique shops and terrace houses.

Six of the bungalows, each costing RM5mil and more and built on land above the 60m-high retaining wall, are now at risk.

Scores of shops and linked houses below, separated from the wall by a road, have also been deemed unsafe.

Ahmad Phesal said they were considering the developer’s proposal to demolish the worst affected bungalow situated closest to the edge of the wall to reduce the load on the slope.

Other remedial measures will also be taken to strengthen the wall and prevent further soil erosion.

He also said that two other houses in the critical zone, belonging to Rompin MP Datuk Seri Jamaluddin Jarjis and Setiawangsa MP Datuk Seri Zulhasnan Rafique, might be torn down as well, pending evaluation.

He added that I&P Group would handle the recovery of the damaged wall.

There were no casualties because the tenant and family of the destroyed bungalow had moved out two days earlier after noticing signs of slope failure, said a neighbour.

However, more than 57 families have been evacuated and Ahmad Phesal said more were expected to follow suit.

He said the current situation was still critical as there was still soil movement and the authorities were monitoring the situation on an hourly basis.

“If the wall totally collapses, some 11,000 cubic metres of soil will come crashing down. That will require 1,800 lorry trips to remove,” he said.

Ahmad Phesal added that an alternative route to bypass the wall would be built as soon as possible to provide safe access for the residents.

“We are doing everything we can for the residents,” he said.

He added that a special committee would also be set up to update residents on the situation every day at 5pm and maintain contact with those involved.

“To prevent looting and break-ins, the police will intensify surveillance and patrolling efforts,” he said.