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ASIA PACIFIC

16 Killed in Landslides at Malaysian Orphanage

May 21: A rescuer uses a construction machine to search for the bodies believed to be buried by a landslide in Hulu Langat in central Selangor state, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.AP

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Two landslides that hit a Malaysian orphanage killed 15 boys and one adult but nine other people survived, police said Sunday.

District police chief Abdul Rashid Wahab said the bodies of 15 boys, aged 8 to 18, and a 34-year-old caretaker had been recovered. Six boys and three wardens who were critically injured in Saturday's landslides have been hospitalized, he said.

Medical officers had to amputate the leg of one of the boys at the site after he was pulled out due to a severe injury that caused incessant bleeding, health ministry official Azmi Shapie said.

Abdul Rashid said the last rescued victim, a 9-year-old boy, was pulled out nearly eight hours after tons of earth crashed through the orphanage for ethnic Malay Muslim boys in a sleepy village in central Selangor state.

Though it wasn't raining when the landslides occurred Saturday afternoon, wet weather in the past few days was the likely cause, he said.

The 25 people buried by the landslides were among 49 who were attending a motivational camp at the orphanage, he said. Most of the boys were orphans, but details were still unclear.

"They just had lunch at the tent by the side of the house when two landslides apparently occurred seconds after each other," Abdul Rashid told The Associated Press. "The tent collapsed, burying 25 people as they did not have time to escape."

Mohamad Hambali Ismail, a warden at the orphanage, told local media that the children were preparing to receive visitors when the earth shook.

"I heard a loud noise. Suddenly the earth was chasing me. I had to run to save myself," Hambali, 34, told the Malay-language Berita Harian newspaper.

A heavy downpour after the landslides hampered rescue operations by some 200 firefighters, police and others.

"Rescuers have to dig through 14 feet of sludge using their hands and other equipment because the soil surrounding is very soft due to the rain," Abdul Rashid said, adding that the last body was retrieved more than 14 hours after the landslides.

A small stream runs near the orphanage, a huge three-story house at a foothill in the semi-rural village. The house was partly damaged and several tall trees fell due to the landslides.

Several houses near the orphanage were evacuated amid concerns of further landslides, Abdul Rashid said.

The Selangor state government has ordered an investigation into the safety of hillsides in the area.