KUALA LUMPUR: At least 37 people were killed while 16 others were injured when an express bus overturned and plunged into a ravine at Km 3.5 Jalan Genting, near Chin Swee Temple at 2.45pm today.
The dead comprised 24 men and 13 women including the 40-something bus driver.
The crash is believed to be one of the worst in the nation's history.
Rescuers worked frantically to locate the bodies and the survivors, many of whom were flung out of the bus as it rolled down the 60m ravine.
It is understood that at least five were seriously injured.
The survivors were sent to the Selayang and Kuala Lumpur hospitals within an hour of the accident.
The bus, which was initially believed to be carrying 53 passengers, was headed for the city at the time.
However, rescuers said the number of passengers could be more than that as they recovered another three bodies from the wreckage.
As at 6.50pm, rescuers, working in the rain, were still trying to recover the bodies, some of which were flung metres away from the bus.
The passengers are believed to be local and foreign tourists including from Indonesia, Thai and Bangladesh.
Rescuers told the NST that the trees and undergrowth had slowed down the momentum of the bus as it rolled down the ravine.
Emergency and rescue personnel brought in a crane and jerry-rigged a bucket recovery system to haul up the survivors and the dead.
The task is labourous as only two people can be hauled up at a time.
At 7pm, Kuala Lumpur Fire and Rescue Department chief Azizan Ismail said rescue operations would continue for at least another two hours.
Rescue personnel from various agencies were dispatched from Bentong, Kuala Lumpur and Kuantan.
Sultan Pahang Sultan Ahmad Shah, Pahang Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob and Bentong MP Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai were among those who rushed to the disaster location.
Meanwhile, Bernama quoted Kuala Lumpur Hospital (HKL) Emergency and Trauma Department head Datuk Seri Dr Abu Hassan Ashaari saying that five bodies had been sent to the hospital by 6.28pm.
Other hospitals the victims were sent to were the Sungai Buloh Hospital, Selayang Hospital and the Bentong Hospital.
To date, Selayang Hospital has released the names of the eight victims, HKL (five), the Sungai Buloh Hospital and Bentong Hospital two each.
He said the victims were aged between 19 and 50 years.
Bentong District Police chief Supt Mohd Mansor Mohd Nor said the search-and-rescue operation for the victims has been escalated using a special detection device to find and remove victims from a ravine.
As of 8pm, two victims remained to be brought up from the ravine.
"After the victims are found, the rescue team will lift the bus to determine that no other victims had been thrown out of the bus or are trapped at the location of incident," he said.
He said that among the 23 victims who were killed and had been winched up were Bangladesh, Thailand and China nationals.
He said a preliminary investigation revealed that the bus, which was descending from Genting Highlands, went out of control, skidded, hit a wall and plunged into the ravine.
Some 450 search and rescue (SAR) personnel among others from the Fire and Rescue Department, the Police and the Civil Defence Department were involved in the SAR operation.
They said the work was hampered by the steep ravine but by 9.30pm, all the bodies were successfully recovered and sent to Kuala Lumpur Hospital for post mortem.
Acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said a probe has been ordered to find out the reason behind the tragic accident.
Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) chief executive Mohd Nur Ismal Mohamed Kamal announced the formation of a special task force to orobe into the crash.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin who is in Bangkok on an official visit, expressed their condolences to the families of the victims and survivors.
In July 1966, 17 people, including six children, were killed when the bus they were travelling in fell 100 metres into a ravine after a family day celebration in Genting Highlands.
Genting Highlands is a popular holiday destination for local and foreigners alike, especially from Singapore, India, Taiwan, Japan and Indonesia.
Meanwhile, the authorities have released some of the names of the injured at Selayang and Kuala Lumpur hospitals.
List of injured victims at Selayang Hospital :-
1. Raawnok Arefin, 14, M, Bangladesh
2. Nur Syamimi Ja'afar, 25, F, Malaysia
3. Nur Fathiah Ja'afar, 21, F, Malaysia
4. Rashidah Buyah, 50, F, Bangladesh
5. Andri Purwaidi, 25, F, Indonesia
6. Nurul Quraitul Aini, 19, F, Malaysia
7. Rezyan Arefin, 24, M, Bangladesh
8. Nur Fridil Gusman, 23, M, Indonesia.
Numbers 1 and 7; 2 and 3 are siblings.
List of 5 injured survivors at HKL:
1. Wong Teraphong, 63, male, Thai
2. Saidah, 19, female, Malaysian
3. Razif, 26, male, Malaysia
4. S.E Ali Haider son of Shyed Haider, 46, male, Bangladeshi
5. Tan Min Shing, 26, male, Malaysian
Sultan Pahang Sultan Ahmad Shah (in blue jacket) and Pahang MB Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob at the crash sitse. NSTP/Aizuddin Saad
Sultan Pahang, Sultan Ahmad Shah (blue jacket) viewing the remains of the victims who died in the bus crash in Jalan Genting today. NST pix by Aizuddin Saad
One of the injured victims of the express bus crash in Genting being wheeled into Bentong Hospital. NSTP/Farizul Hafiz Awang