Friday, April 23, 2021

Construction site fatalities the latest concern for KL residents

Many who live near the SUKE highway construction site say they were opposed to the project from the start.

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When Ooi Leong Seng bought a house at Taman Bukit Manda’rina in Kuala Lumpur nine years ago, he dreamt of a life of peace and serenity.

But his dream was cut short after just four years, when a highway development project began less than 20m away from his front door.

Now, he and his neighbours say they are haunted day and night by the Sungai Besi-Ulu Klang Elevated Expressway (SUKE) project which overlaps Persiaran Alam Damai just outside their locality.

Residents had voiced their opposition to the project even before construction of the 24.4km highway began. Once the project was launched in 2012, their headaches began in earnest.

Colin Stuart, chairman of the Residents Association of Second Enclave Bukit Manda’rina, said sometimes construction work continues into the night.

“We have been complaining for years, but it’s like vomiting, eating the vomit and then vomiting again,” he told MalaysiaNow.

As construction continued, the carriageway began looming over their homes, dominating the skyline. One column was put up directly in front of their guardhouse.

Construction of the Sungai Besi–Ulu Klang Elevated Expressway takes place less than 20m from the nearest house in Taman Bukit Manda’rina, Kuala Lumpur.

Stuart also voiced concern about safety, saying there have been cases of debris and pebbles falling on residents’ cars.

“Last year, a construction worker had a narrow escape when a metal beam fell just inches away from him,” he said, adding that the incident had been caught on CCTV.

The SUKE project made headlines this month after several fatal incidents at the construction site, the most recent of which claimed the lives of three Chinese workers.

The workers died when a launcher crane gave way. The crane landed on a passing car, injuring the driver as well.

Works Minister Fadillah Yusof later ordered an immediate stop to construction and maintainance work to allow an investigation into the cause of the incident.

He said initial investigations found that the contractor had complied with the stipulated SOPs.

The metal beam which fell near a construction worker just in front of the guard house last year.

Earlier this month, two people were killed when the van in which they were travelling on the MRR2 Highway near Bandar Tasik Selatan was struck by a bridge which collapsed after being hit by a trailer.

Commenting on the most recent fatalities, Stuart questioned the move to conduct overhead work at 8am.

“They sent a notice stating that they would be conducting some work at night. So why did they continue to work during peak hour? Where was the flagman? How can you move heavy machinery overhead when there is traffic below?”

He added that the construction work had caused damage to the drainage system at both sides of Persiaran Alam Damai.

Business owners in the nearby Taman Len Seng and Damai 23 areas also said they had seen a dip in cash flow due to the construction work.

Kenny Lin, a spokesman for businesses in Alam Damai, said much of the disruption over the past two years was due to road closures.

“It is hard for businesses to operate when they close the roads,” he said to MalaysiaNow.

“Customers avoid the area as it is hard for them to park, and the alternative roads are small and congested.

“Now, with the recent fatalities, they are planning to close another road. This time, we are asking for compensation.”

Screws and bolts from the construction site found near the Taman Bukit Manda’rina guard house.

Activist Mak Khuin Weng questioned the frequency of accidents at the site, asking if anyone is being held accountable.

“We don’t see the supervisor or the developer actually being held responsible,” he said. “The action starts and ends with the contractor in the form of fines.”

Mak, a former Petaling Jaya City Council councillor, also cited the SUK environmental impact assessment report, saying no details were available on safety except for a request for the developer to hire a traffic management consultant.

He said the reports identify the project issues in broad terms but that implementation of specific SOPs are left to the developer or contractor.

MalaysiaNow is still attempting to get a response from Prolintas.

The project developer yesterday appointed an independent auditor to study the cause of this week’s incident, apart from the probe by the Department of Occupational Safety and Health.

“The appointment of this independent auditor is the SOP when something unforeseen happens at highway construction sites.

“All highway project developer companies are responsible for ensuring that all contractors and sub-contractors comply with the work rules and procedures set,” the Malaysian Highway Authority said in a statement.

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