More people reported missing in Malaysian jungles this year

Dark side of nature: The number of people reported lost in Malaysian jungles has risen significantly over the last three years.
PHOTO: The Star/Asia News Network

PETALING JAYA - The great outdoors is an increasingly popular draw in Malaysia, but many people have learnt the hard way that the wild can be unforgiving if they are not well-prepared for the experience.

The number of people reported lost in the jungle so far this year is significantly higher than in each of the past three years.

Fire and Rescue Department operations division director Datuk Abdul Wahab Mat Yasin said in the first seven months of the year, there were 252 cases of persons reported missing in the jungle.

In contrast, there were 191 cases in 2016, while the figures for the next two years were 219 and 217 respectively.

Abdul Wahab said in 2018, all the missing persons were found, whereas two from this year's cases remain missing.

He said the increase this year could be due to growing interest in hiking, trekking and camping, even among those who are not skilled in such pursuits.

"Many of them don't hire certified guides or report their activities in the jungle to the relevant authorities.

"Some believe that venturing into the jungle is a piece of cake, even though they may not be fit for such outdoor activities," he added.

Of the 252 people reported missing between January and July this year, 23 are foreigners.

Abdul Wahab said Selangor had the most cases of missing persons in the jungle, with 85 so far this year.

"Many cases happen in Selangor because there are many attractive recreational spots that have good amenities," he explained.

The other states with a large number of such cases are Sarawak (46), Pahang (25) and Melaka (17).

Among the reasons people get lost in the jungle, he said, are unfamiliarity with jungle conditions, losing their bearings while looking for forest products and failure to rely on guides.

"Also, a missing person may get separated from his group or may have an irresponsible guide," Abdul Wahab said.

He also advised people not to panic if they get lost in the jungle, adding that they should stay put.

"Try to retrace your steps, look out for footprints and find the route that you were on. Don't run or do strenuous activities that will drain your energy," he said.

They should also try to look for a shelter where they can rest safely, he said.

He added that people should find river or streams and attract the attention of search-and-rescue personnel.

"Break branches that are at eye level, which is about five feet from the ground. Make marks along your path to help rescuers track you.

"Sound a whistle if you have one and light a fire so that rescuers can see the smoke," Abdul Wahab said.

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