KAMPAR: Shafie Bahoi still has tears in his eyes when he recalls how he lost his pregnant wife and their three-year-old son during the huge mudslide in Pos Dipang near here 27 years ago.

He could only watch helplessly from his father’s house – where he had saved the older man – as the water and debris tore through his house.

Rescuers found his wife’s body two days after the tragedy and his son’s about five days later.

Time may have eased the pain, but when he heard of the landslide that hit Batang Kali exactly a month ago, the agony came rushing back.

The odd job worker’s wife and son were among 44 people, including children, killed in the tragedy that has been described as the worst in Perak since 1926.

On the evening of Aug 29, 1996, the landslide at the Orang Asli settlement swept away about 30 houses.

Recalling his ordeal, the 51-year-old said: “Our house was located a few metres away from my father’s house, which was near a river. So, when the water level rose, I ran over and tried to bring him out of the house.”

“After rescuing him, I saw the water gushing through my house. I was scared, thinking about my wife and son,” he said in an interview at his home in Pos Dipang.

“My wife was seven months pregnant, and our son was still small. It took me years to recover from their deaths. There is a heaviness in my heart whenever I think about them.”

“I have never forgotten about them,” said Shafie who remarried a few years later and has several children.

Shafie said he also lost his nieces who were trying to rescue other villagers. His father has since died.

“When I heard about Batang Kali, I couldn’t help but feel sad. Seeing the families crying for their loved ones was too close to home.”

On Dec 16, 2022, a landslide struck Father’s Organic Farm campsite along the Batang Kali-Genting stretch in the wee hours of the morning, killing 30 people.

Having lived through the Pos Dipang disaster, Shafie said the villagers were constantly on high alert.

“If it there is heavy rain for more than 30 minutes, we prepare to leave the village. I have lost my family once; I can’t lose them again,” he said.

Apa Bengal, a retired villager, is hoping that Sungai Dipang can have an alarm system that would sound if the water rises.

“Back in 1996, the flood happened during daylight. I believe that kept the number of victims down because people were up and about. Some of them managed to flee and look for shelter.

Apa said he was working outside the village when the flood struck.

“I could only think of my wife and children.”

Apa took a longer route to get home as the main access road was cut off.

“When I saw the condition of my house, I feared the worst, but luckily, my wife and our children survived,” he said.

Since the disaster, many of the villagers have moved elsewhere.

“We received help to rebuild our community, including building houses a few metres away from the site of the tragedy.”

Last month’s Batang Kali disaster also evoked painful memories for Apa.

“When I read about Batang Kali, my memories flashed back. Just a few days ago, a nearby village was hit by flash floods. It made all of us feel anxious. The rain was heavy. Luckily, it stopped after an hour.

“We hope the government can consider having the alarm system and a better barricade to protect the villages,” he said.

He added that a barricade made of metal fences and stones along the river was now in poor condition after it was destroyed during several flash floods.

Apa, who was involved in the rescue misssion in 1996, said he could never forget what he saw.

“The mudslide killed our neighbours and friends. And it also destroyed our village and livelihood.”