PETALING JAYA, Malaysia - The three deaths at Cameron Highlands were an avoidable tragedy, caused by the stubbornness of farmers and villagers, said district officer Datuk Ahmad Daud.
Authorities, he said, had tried to relocate the farmers and villagers away from the river reserve for the past five years.
"However, they refused and even blocked our attempts to relocate them," he said in an interview, pointing out that no human activity was allowed to take place on river reserves.
The decision to release water in a controlled manner was made by Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB), sounding the warning sirens for half an hour before this was done for the first time at midnight, followed by a second and third release at 1am and 2.45am.
However, during the incident which also destroyed nearly 100 houses, villagers claimed that they had either not heard the sirens through the pouring rain or chosen to ignore it as they were used to the sound.
Ahmad said he hoped the farmers and villagers would learn from the tragedy and relocate their farms and residences.
He also said siltation in the dam was a huge problem due to the farmers' poor attitude in properly disposing of their agricultural waste..
Local authorities, Ahmad pointed out, had organised educational programmes and events such as gotong-royong to clean up the rivers but had received poor response from the farmers.