Highland Towers collapse

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Highland Towers collapse
Highland Towers 2008.JPG
The surviving Blocks 2 and 3 of the Highland Towers in 2008, similar in design to the collapsed Block 1.
Date 11 December 1993; 24 years ago (1993-12-11)
Time 1:35 pm MST (Saturday afternoon)
Location Highland Towers, Taman Hillview, Ulu Klang, Selangor, Malaysia
Cause Landslide caused by continuous rainfall over the course of 2 weeks
Deaths 48; one of them was rescued alive (Shizue Nakajima) but died in hospital because of her injuries.

The Highland Towers collapse was an apartment building collapse that occurred as a result of a major landslide on 11 December 1993 in Taman Hillview, Ulu Klang, in Selangor, Malaysia. The collapse involved Block 1 of the Highland Towers, resulting in the deaths of 48 people and led to the complete evacuation of the remaining two blocks due to safety concerns.

The Highland Towers consist of three similar 13-story blocks, built in phases between 1974 and 1982 at the western base of a steeply sloped hill which was later terraced extensively in the early 1980s. These towers were home to affluent middle-class families; a sizeable percentage of the residents were expatriates.

Each block was respectively named:

  • Block 1 (built 1977, southern-most)
  • Block 2 (built 1979, north-northwest of Block 1, slightly elevated than the other two, closer in to the hill)
  • Block 3 (built 1981, northwest of Block 1, west of Block 2).

A swimming pool was located between northwest side of Block 2 and northeast rear of Block 3.

Block 1 collapsed after 10 continuous days of rainfall led to a landslide after the retaining wall behind the Block 1 of Highland Tower's car park was destroyed.[citation needed]


Behind the Highland Towers was a small stream of water known as East Creek. East Creek flowed into the site of the Highland Towers before the construction of Highland Towers, so a pipe system was built to divert the stream to bypass the Highland Towers.

In 1991, a new housing development project, known as the Bukit Antarabangsa Development Project, commenced construction on the hilltop behind the Highland Towers. The hill was cleared of trees and other land-covering plants, exposing the soil to land erosion that is the leading factor of causing landslides.

The water from the new construction site was diverted into the existing pipe system used to divert the flow of East Creek. This overloaded the pipe system and water, sand and silt from both East Creek and the construction site of Bukit Antarabangsa infiltrated the pipes. The pipes burst at several locations on the hill, and the surrounding soil (behind Block 1) had to absorb the excessive water. The monsoon rainfall in December 1993 further worsened the situation.

The water content in the soil became over-saturated to the extent that the soil had turned viscous, in effect becoming mud. By the end of November 1993, the hill slope had been saturated with water, and water was seen flowing down the hill slopes and the constructed retaining walls.

Shortly thereafter, a landslide took place and destroyed the constructed retaining walls. The landslide contained an estimated 100,000 square metres of mud – a mass equivalent to 200 Boeing 747 jets. The soil rammed onto the foundation of Block 1, incrementally pushing it forward. After of that constant pressure, the foundations of Block 1 snapped and in December 1993, residents began to see cracks forming and widening on the road around the Highland Towers, a forewarning of collapse. Unfortunately, there was no further investigation before Block 1 collapsed on 11 December 1993.


The official death toll released by the authorities was 48, though other sources gave a number greater than 55. The victims are mainly Malaysians, with 12 foreigners (a British, a Japanese, 2 Indians, 2 Koreans, 3 Filipino and 3 Indonesian). Among the victims were Carlos Abdul Rashid (son of former Deputy Prime Minister, Musa Hitam) and his wife, Rosina Datuk Abu Bakar.[1]

  • Rohana Bano Mushtak Ahmad, 29
  • Kak Ton Consist, 17
  • Nursyafiq Bin Nordin, 22
  • Muhammad Amir Faiz Bin Mohd Nazri, 22
  • Mohammad Adam, 6 months
  • Carlos Abdul Rashid (son of former Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Musa Hitam) and his wife, Rosina Datuk Abu Bakar
  • Korean woman, Bahk Jung Soon, 45, and her daughter Bahk Hee Won
  • Koh Yuet Met
  • Gene Koh Wai Keong, 15
  • Brandon Koh Wai Hong,6
  • Daryl Koh Wai Kin, 3
  • Yap Kien Seng, 18
  • Yap Woei Ning
  • Yap Hsiao Mei, 18 and her mother – Wong Mee Thai, 35
  • Datin Milly Lee, 55
  • Teo Tea
  • Ong Yong, 53
  • Douglas Ong Tee Ming, 17
  • Fatimah Abdul Majid, 66
  • Che Mariam Abdul Majid, 76
  • Noranira Mohamed Nor, 15
  • Nik Mohamed Baharuddin, 41
  • Shizue Nakajima, 50 (Rescued alive, but died with severe internal injuries in hospital)
  • Dr Anne George
  • Debbie George
  • Sharon George
  • Majnawiyah Masnawi, 25
  • Amirah Nor Hamzah, 15
  • Fergus Phang Thien Liang, 26
  • Phang's mother, Ivy Lim Ai Bee
  • Phang's grandmother, Cheng Kim Tai
  • Trimah Ngarijo
  • Yusna Anuar
  • Farah Aruzi
  • Lee Mun Lin
  • Tony Lou Yoke Yong
  • Adrian Lou Chung Wei
  • Barry Lou Ka Wei
  • Sajjive Chandran
  • Prakash Chandran
  • Radha Chandran
  • Quah Li Jun
  • Chiew Poh Wah
  • Goh Fong Kiew
  • Judith Mosquiter
  • Suharti Kusban
  • Aribinda Datta
  • Rita Datta
  • Mohan Raj
  • Sundar Moorthi

Rescuers heard knocking and voices right up to the seventh day after the collapse. Only three people, including a baby, were pulled out from the rubble alive, and only within the first 24 hours; one of them died later in hospital.

Chronology of events[edit]

  • October 1992
    • Water began to flow down the hill slopes due to the flooding caused by the burst pipes.
  • November 1993
    • Cracks began to form and widen on the road leading to the towers.
  • 11 December 1993: Block 1 of the Highland Towers collapses at 1.35 pm.
    • 124 members of the Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) and about 30 military personnel and engineers from Batu Cantonment Camp and Wardieburn Camp are deployed for search and rescue. Hundreds of policemen(PDRM), firemen(Bomba) and Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) rescue teams, Malaysian Red Crescent Council volunteers arrived earlier.
    • Rescue team spots somebody waving a stick throughout the rubble. A maid of one of the residents at Level 7, Umi Rashidah Khoruman, 22, and her daughter Nur Hamidah Najib, 18 months are found.
    • Shizue Nakajima, 50, a Japanese woman was also pulled from the debris but pronounced dead at 12 midnight in Kuala Lumpur Hospital (HKL). Dr Abdul Wahid Shahrum from HKL stated Nakajima suffered severe internal bleeding.
    • Prime Minister of Malaysia, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and many cabinet ministers visit the site.
  • 12 December : Residents of Block 2 and 3 of Highland Towers are ordered to vacate their homes after declaring unsafe. Search and rescue teams from Singapore, France, Japan, United Kingdom and the United States arrived in Malaysia to help. Nuri and Alouette helicopters from the RMAF were also despatched.
  • 13 December: A team from France with two rescue dogs joins the operation. They use heartbeat detectors to search for survivors and digs a 4.5-meter hole for access. A Committee Cabinet is established specifically to deal with problems relating to the Highland Towers tragedy.
  • 15 December: Rescuers find six bodies. Four are believed to be of two Koreans and two locals. Rescue teams decides to use machines to break concrete and steel as well as bulldozers to remove debris to open a route.
  • 16 December: Umi Rashidah and Nur Hamidah are released from HKL.
  • 17 December: The Cabinet Committee agrees to abandon rescue efforts and begin the search of the dead.
  • 18 December: Rescue teams find 6 more bodies including one child.
  • 19 December: Rescue teams find three bodies. One of a woman, located about 8 meters inside the parking area, was found at 7 p.m. The second body, also a woman, was found near the first body at 8.30 p.m. while the third, a man, was found at 10.15 p.m. in the night.
  • 20 December: So far, 25 bodies is found, including one who embraced the Qur'an found in Level 12 are discovered. Also found were the remains of a woman wearing a sari and shielding a child.
  • 21 December: The police confirms that 48 bodies were recovered from the Highland Towers debris.
  • 22 December: The search is ended. Dr Nik Hassan Nik Ramlan is appointed chairman of the Technical Committee of Investigating the Highland Towers tragedy.


Plans were made to repair the remaining Blocks 2 and 3 of the towers and reoccupy them in 1995, but inspections have revealed that the blocks were no longer structurally safe and demolition was the only option as the other 2 buildings may collapse at any time. The status of the remaining blocks of the towers was subsequently in limbo, and remaining residents were required to move out Block 2 and 3, effectively leaving the entire site abandoned after the rubble of Block 1 was cleared away. In 1998, a legal team in charge of a lawsuit involving the collapse visited the surviving towers and found that they had been stripped of usable fixtures.

On 11 December 2004, in conjunction with the eleventh anniversary of the tragedy, all former residents and victims of the Highland Towers gathered at the site as a final farewell, after knowing that the property will be transferred to AmBank. The Highland Towers memorial stone was also erect at the site of Block 1, but was a victim of significant vandalism.

The abandoned Blocks 2 and 3 of the Highland Towers still stand as of January 2017, but having been largely stripped, are little more than concrete and brick shells. The area has been the site of much vandalism, and is in complete disarray and ruin from exposure to the elements. As reported by nearby residents, the remaining buildings have become a haven for criminals, drug addicts and mat rempits who use them as temporary shelters.[2] On 12 April 2016, three criminals were fatally shot by police near the buildings.[3][4] Due to the number of deaths that occurred in the area, some residents believe the towers to be haunted.[5] Recent attempts had been made to cordon off the compound of the towers with a barrier gate at the only remaining access road to the towers, but the gate would eventually be tampered with to allow access regardless, and no perimeter fencing were installed. Due to its prolong use as a criminal hideout, further calls have been made in 2016 by residents of Taman Hillview and the neighboring Taman Sri Ukay to demolish the surviving towers.[6]

Coinciding with the 17th anniversary of the incident, AETN's History Channel showed an hour-long documentary on the tragedy on 11 December 2010, with accounts from the victims, their families and former residents of the Highland Towers.

Subsequent landslides in the vicinity[edit]

Landslides continued to occur during mid-to-late year monsoon seasons on both sides of the hill where the Highland Towers were built and at nearby hills in Ulu Klang, with some leading to fatalities:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Highland Tower First-week news report
  2. ^ S. Puspadevi (10 April 2012). "Residents living near Highland Towers worry about their safety". The Star. Retrieved 13 April 2016. 
  3. ^ Hani Shamira Shahrudin (12 April 2016). "Three suspected robbers shot dead near Highland Towers, 3 others escape". New Straits Times. Retrieved 13 April 2016. 
  4. ^ "Robbers shot at Highland Towers". The Star. 13 April 2016. Retrieved 10 May 2017. 
  5. ^ Shalini Ravindran (12 December 2013). "Highland Towers: Ghostly town in many ways". The Star. Retrieved 13 April 2016. 
  6. ^ Shalini Ravindran (13 April 2016). "Nearby residents want abandoned Highland Towers blocks demolished". The Star. Retrieved 10 May 2017. 

Further reading[edit]