Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Highland Towers Tragedy 1993: Coping after 20 years

The Highland Towers tragedy occurred on Saturday afternoon on 11 December 1993. A massive landslide forced 12-storey Block A to collapse and 48 people died. Block B and Block C were subsequently vacated for safety reasons. Three people were pulled out alive (all females) from the rubble but one Japanese lady Shizue Nakajima (50) later died in hospital. The survivors are a maid and her baby daughter.

Former federal CID chief Tan Sri Zaman Khan Rahim Khan hopes to meet the 18-month old baby girl Nur Hamidah Najib who would now be 21. Her mother Umi Rashidah Khoruman (then 22) would be 42 today. Baby Nur Hamidah was the first to be pulled out alive, and was first handed to Zaman Khan. Zaman Khan held up the baby for the crowd and TV viewers to see. It was such a relief and joy to see a baby being pulled out alive; I think the whole nation cried. Umi was pulled out later by rescue workers. I remember they wheeled Umi in a wheelchair; she did appear shocked but sat quietly. Later she told how she saved her baby and herself. I remember she said she tied her baby to herself using a traditional sarong for carrying babies (kain gendung anak).

Many managed to escape death before or while Block A was collapsing. They managed to free themselves and escaped from the tumbling block. One lucky baby girl is Marisa, whose maid Lati carried her out to safety after she received orders from Marisa's mother, Rosina Abu Bakar. Marisa's father Carlos Rashid was in the shower. Later the remains of Marisa's parents were found in the staircase of the collapsed tower. Former deputy prime minister and Sime Darby Foundation chairman Tan Sri Musa Hitam (79) spoke about losing his family members in the tragedy to NationThe Star. He was in Kota Tinggi visiting villages at the time of the tragedy. He had rushed back to find his son and family. He had lunched with his son Carlos at his apartment in Block A, a week prior to the tragedy, and recalled seeing a bulldozer far away. That was the last time the father and son met. After the tragedy, baby Marisa was placed under the care of her aunt Rosana who had 2 children. Rosana was Tun Musa's youngest daughter. Marisa is now 20 years old and a second-year university student in psychology. She was informed of her real parents a few years ago, and took the news well. Tan Sri Musa has another son Hanif. He has 3 grandchildren - Marisa, Kaelan and __.

I also read about Dr PG George (72), an O&G consultant who lost his wife and 2 daughters aged 2 and 5 years in the tragedy. The family had just returned from a holiday in India and the tragedy happened day after their return while he was at work. He was terribly shocked and shaken but faith helped him to cope. He remarried and now dotes his 14-year old daughter.

I have only read a few stories and seen a few videos. There are many more painful stories that have not made it to the mass media.

Sources and external links:
Zaman: I wish to meet miracle girl. Nation, The Star Online. Tuesday, 10 December 2013.
Highland Towers: It still hurts - 20 years on. Nation, The Star Online. Wednesday, 11 December 2013.
YouTube: Highland Towers: Saving grace
The Highland Towers Tragedy 1/4
The Highland Towers Tragedy 2/4
The Highland Towers Tragedy 3/4
The Highland Towers Tragedy 4/4