Former Malaysian DPM speaks about losing his family to Highland Towers disaster

Former Malaysian DPM speaks about losing his family to Highland Towers disaster

MALAYSIA - It was a Saturday afternoon, and he was in the shower while his wife was with the baby.

Suddenly their 12-storey apartment block shook. She handed the little girl to the maid and told her to run. Maid and baby had barely passed the exit before the entire structure collapsed.

For Sime Darby Foundation chairman Tun Musa Hitam, the story is painful to remember.

His son, Carlos Rashid, and daughter-in law Rosina Abu Bakar were both killed in the 1993 Highland Towers tragedy, caused by a landslide that contained a mass equivalent of 200 jumbo jets ramming into the foundations of Block A.

"When I heard the news, I was in Kota Tinggi (in Johor), visiting the villages. I rushed back. One of my sons-in-law and bodyguard were with me but nobody could tell me the full story.

"The drive back took nearly three hours. I just had this gut feeling that something was seriously wrong," recalled the 79-year-old former deputy prime minister.

"When I arrived on-scene, all I saw was this rubble. My first question was: where was my son?

"Nobody could tell me that he was alive. All they said was that they were searching. The only good news was that my granddaughter, Marisa, was safe."

Carlos' and Rosina's remains were discovered days after the Dec 11 disaster that claimed 48 lives.

"No words can describe how I felt then. I remember my ex-secretary telling me: 'I don't want you to see their bodies.'" And Musa knew better than to argue.

Despite his sorrow, Musa found the strength to move on.

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