Friday, 4 January 2013

Highland Towers Tragedy 1993

I was enjoying breakfast when I heard about the tragedy on TV in 1993. My husband said a tragedy happened in KL that morning. I never believed it happened and I refused to believe it then. I didn't say anything. I was silent and in total disbelief that a tragedy of such magnitude even happened, and of all places, in KL, in Malaysia. My husband brought me the newspaper the following morning. Still I could not grasp this tragedy. I looked at the front page and the photo of the collapsed tower. I said to myself, the collapsed building looked intact like playing cards. Not knowing the actual size and shape of the collapsed building, I couldn't make out what had actually happened. It was beyond what I could comprehend. I watched TV and followed whatever progress that was aired. I remember some of the victims were allowed to put up at a hotel after some negotiation. I remember the bomba saved a maid and a baby alive. They also dug into the basement to pull out bodies, dead and alive. The authorities were looking for the constructors and engineers of that collapsed building. Studies of hill slopes ensued. Later, no construction was allowed on hill slopes of a certain degree. But some Malaysians did not heed the warning and continued building expensive homes on steep hill slopes.

It is now 20 years after the Highland Towers tragedy which occurred on 11 December 1993. I wonder how the victims have coped and what they are doing today. Do they still have fear of high rise buildings collapsing? 1/4
This video clip also features Tan Sri Dr Ridzwan Bakar, son of Datuk Dr Abu Bakar bin Ibrahim (deceased) and Tan Sri Dr Salma bt Ismail.

Below are some frames I have captured from the movie and parts of the script that awakened my memory today, after I watched this particular segment over and over for 3 hours, to see for myself and get my story right.

I remember Carlos Musa was the son of Tan Sri Musa Hitam (Dy PM) from his foreign wife, who died in the Highland Towers tragedy. However, there is no mention of what happened to Rosina Bakar.

Husband Carlos Musa, baby Marisa and wife Rosina Bakar
On the fourth floor, Carlos Musa is in the shower. His wife Rosina senses extreme danger. She has a baby, Marisa. - Narrator, History Channel
My sister said to Lita the maid, "Take Marisa out as soon as possible". As she walked down the staircase, the building walls begin to crack and by the time she reached the ground level, tensions were building up on the ground and she had to jump and fell about 3 times before she finally got to safety. - Dr Ridzwan Bakar 2/4
In this video clip, many expressed their concerns and hopes that there would be survivors in the rubbles while the search and  rescue teams continued their activities, rushing against time. Humans can only survive a few days without water and dehydration becomes a grave concern. Knocks became a means of detecting survivors.

Dr Ridzwan Bakar is waiting to hear about his sister Rosina and her husband, Carlos Musa. - Narrator, History Channel.
 Dr Ridzwan expresses his concern about his sister, Rosina.
My feeling at that time of course was that of hope, hope for that people who were in the building at that point in time, were somehow still alive.- Dr Ridzwan Bakar
Civilians volunteered to help the bomba men in their search for survivors
Dr Ridzwan volunteers as a rescuer and he joins the many other civilians who offer to help the bomba men. - Narrator, History Channel
Dr Mahathir was then prime minster and he arrived at the tragedy site
In the evening of the first day, PM Dr Mahathir arrives. On what's now an international news story, Dr Mahathir calls for help from round the world. The PM also wants answers, how many people are still trapped inside the building and why did it collapse. - Narrator, History Channel 3/4
This video clip is at 1 week after the collapse. There was little hope for any survivors. The area stank of dead bodies decomposing. After 12 days, a total of 48 dead bodies were counted.

I remember the bodies being brought up by the workers and they were all at various states of decomposition. I remember seeing a lady clutching the holy Quran. I remember seeing a woman clutching a child, with both arms. - Dr Ridzwan Bakar
The remains of Dr Ridzwan's sister Rosina and her husband Carlos are found the next day. - Narrator, History Channel
They found them in the staircase somewhere between the third and second floor, together, in an embrace. - Dr Ridzwan Bakar  (Eksklusif, RTM1)
Names of the 48 victims of the Highland Towers disaster are listed in this video clip.

Carlos Rashid and Rosina Datuk Abu Bakar are listed as victims of the Highland Towers tragedy.
In my book, Biography of the Early Malay Doctors 1900-1957 Malaya and Singapore, I mentioned this text:
Tan Sri Dato’ Dr Salma has four children - Datuk Dr Ridzwan, Mr Ezani, Dr Normi and Rosina. Two of her children, Datuk Dr Ridzwan and Dr Normi, followed in her footsteps by becoming doctors.

I also wrote about Tan Sri Dr Salma:
Her 90th birthday in 2008 was announced in the local newspapers.[1]

[1] The Star, Saturday, 20 December 2008, Section - Nation, page N6. “Matriarch of Malaysian docs.”

I did not include 2 more photos in Tan Sri Dr Salma's biography in my book because of copyright matters. But these photos are in my 5th draft of her biography of 9 December 2011. Notice that Rosina Bakar is missing in this pic below.

Tan Sri Salma celebrating her 90th birthday on 19 December 2008 in Bangsar Baru, Kuala Lumpur. She is seen here with three of her children (from left) Ezani Bakar, Dr Ridzwan Bakar and Dr Normi Bakar. Photograph courtesy of Utusan Malaysia (Sabtu 20 Disember 2008).
Matriach of Malaysian docs. Country’s first Malay woman doctor turns 90.
Tun Dr Siti Hasmah hands Tan Sri Salma a birthday gift while Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad looks on.
Article was authored by Nurbaiti Hamdan (
Courtesy of The Star (Saturday, 20 December 2008, Nation, N6).