The collapse of the suspension pedestrian bridge across Sungai Kampar at Kuala Dipang recently has started yet another round of inquires on the cause of the tragedy.
As usual, it takes a tragedy or a serious incident for those in the relevant agencies and departments to talk about safety, mainly as to what should or should not have been done. It is as though a veil has been lifted suddenly and they began to see clearly now.
And so, guidelines and directives on safety measures are making the headlines in the aftermath of the tragedy. More will be issued as the investigations progress.
Twenty-two school-children, who were participants of a 1Malaysia’s camp, were on the bridge at 10.30 p.m. on October 26th when it collapsed and threw them into the swift flowing river. Three of them were drowned, while the rest either managed to save themselves or were rescued.
Commenting on the need to ensure safety measures, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said a reconnaissance team would be sent out before students converge at any facility outside school compound to guarantee their safety and security in future.
It would be among the must-dos by schools and organizers of school excursions to ensure students are out of harm’s way, added Tan Sri Muhyiddin, who is also the Education Minister.
However many questions need to be answered. Not only on the stability of the newly constructed bridge, but also on why the children were crossing the bridge at that time of the night and whether there was adult supervision.
Will all the results of the investigations help to identify potential danger in the future so that the loss of lives and properties could be minimized, or become mere records tucked away in files and forgotten?
The ‘tidak-apa’ attitude seems to be infectious too, as even members of public are throwing all caution to the wind as shown by the drowning of three Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (Utar) undergraduates at the Batu Berangkal waterfalls also at Kampar on November 1st.
There have been a number of similar tragedies involving picnickers in the state, and yet precautionary measures and guidelines that need to be observed while at waterfalls, particularly during rainy season, have been ignored.
What is wrong with us, Malaysians? Are we taking thing easy and just wait for “whatever will be, will be”?
I understand if it is a natural disaster as no-one could predict when and how it would occur, but in a tragedy such as the collapse of the bridge (though the first in Perak) some precautionary measures could certainly have been taken.
Yet, every time a tragedy or incident occurs, investigations would usually narrow down the causes to negligence or failure to observe the guidelines.
In the history of Perak, there have been a number of tragedies involving school-children. Among them were the capsizes of overloaded boats at Kampung Gajah and Lenggong.
Others include rock-falls. The most serious was the rock-falls at Gunung Cheroh in Ipoh about three decades ago when several people were crushed to death in a long-house at the foot of a limestone hill.
The most recent incident was on January 11th, this year, in the internationally known cave temple, Perak Tong, along Jalan Kuala Kangsar in Ipoh, where thousands of tonnes of rocks had crushed into the main chamber of the temple killing a security guard.
Similarly, guidelines on safety measures, including the construction of buildings at the foot of limestone hills, were issued following the rock-falls, but have been blatantly ignored.
When are the agencies and departments going to learn that safety cannot be compromised, but should be a priority at all times.
Do they need disasters periodically to remind them of their responsibilities? Are the relevant agencies and departments incompetent when it comes to implementation and supervision of safety measures?
Remedial measures must be an ongoing effort, not after an incident. They must be properly enforced so that in the event of a rock-fall, collapsed bridge, landslide or flood, the authorities can pinpoint the causes.
Therefore, what is needed is less talk and more action from all relevant agencies and departments, and as well as those responsible for safety. It means that there is a great need for affirmative action from all.