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Pier Collapses In Malaysia; At Least 30 Dead

July 31, 1988 GMT

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) _ A pier jammed with thousands of people going to a festival collapsed Sunday in northwestern Malaysia. At least 35 people were killed and 737 were injured, the official news agency reported Monday.

Mazlan Ariffin, deputy police chief at Butterworth, a coastal city 190 miles northwest of the capital, said the death toll was expected to rise because 40 of the injured were in critical condition, the Bernama news agency reported.

One of the injured, Jenny Ang, a 13-year-old student from Butterworth, said, ″I managed to cling to the edge of the platform and was helped up by a man.

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″Below me ... I saw a whole load of people piled down ... There was total pandemonium and chaos with people rushing to get out of the human pile,″ she told the national news agency Bernama.

She suffered only a slight facial injury.

Gee Swee Cain, a 41-year-old woman who had been waiting to cross over on a ferry to the festival, told Bernama Monday: ″Everything happened so fast, I could only scream for help.

″I ... heard someone from above telling me to be patient, because at that time nothing could be done to help me,″ she was quoted as saying.

Mrs. Gee was pinned under steel and timber wreckage from the platform, suffering chest and facial injuries and a broken leg. Many passengers fell onto the platform about 40 feet underneath. The platform gives vehicles access to ferries and holds a port commission office.

Bernama said firefighters and port workers still were searching the debris late Sunday for more bodies.

Ariffin said a huge crowd was waiting for ferries to take them to Penang island, about three miles across the Stait of Malacca, for a festival when a section of the structure collapsed. The accident occurred at 4:40 p.m.

Syed Mohamad Aidid, chairman of the Penang Ports Commission that operates the ferry terminal, said there usually are only 200 people at a time on the section that collapsed. He said more than 300 people were moving across it to enter a ferry when it gave way and that more than 3,000 people were lined up behind them.

″We had enough personnel to control the situation and instructed them to allow the passengers in batches of about 200 to 300, but the crowd was too big and the platform gave way,″ he said.

″We were prepared to meet the massive passenger crowd and traffic in view of the Kwan Yin festival on the island, but never thought the section would collapse,″ he said.

The festival, when Chinese offer prayers to the Goddess of Mercy, or Kwan Yin, is held once every 60 years according to Chinese tradition. Of Malaysia’s 16 million people, about 4.8 million are Chinese.

There were no reports of foreigners among the casualties.

Thirty-five people have so far been reported dead and 737 injured in the collapse, Bernama said Monday, quoting police and other sources.

Ariffin said 17 bodies were recovered at the scene and 13 people died at the Butterworth district hospital. He said 180 victims were in the Butterworth hospital, 149 in the nearby Bukit Mertajam district hospital, and 40 in critical condition in the Penang general hospital.

Another official gave somewhat higher figures. Penang state Chief Minister Dr. Lim Chong Eu told reporters that 475 people were involved in the collapse. He said 30 were confirmed to have died at the scene, 391 were admitted to hospital emergency wards, and 54 received outpatient treatment.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mahathir Mohamad said his government would provide aid for the victims and would consider compensation for their families. The section of the pier that collapsed was about 40 feet long. Three cars entering the ferry were crushed, and the port commission office under the platform was destroyed.

The jetty with the pier was built in 1956 and repaired from time to time, Bernama reported. The platform which collapsed was last renovated in early 1986, when its planks and bolts were replaced.

The structure was built with pillars only at the sides of the structure and not in the center, where the section failed.

In Kuala Lumpur, the capital, Transport Minister Ling Liong Sik told reporters that an open inquiry would be held to determine why the jetty collapsed.