GUA MUSANG: Malaysian authorities on Thursday (Jun 13) found four more bodies at an Orang Asli settlement in Kelantan after 14 people died of an illness that has yet to be identified by authorities.
The search was initiated as part of an operation to track down the remains of 12 individuals, according to Mr P Waytha Moorthy, the minister in the prime minister’s department. At least eight sets of remains have already been found.
It comes after 14 people were reported to have died in the village of Kuala Koh since May. Two of the bodies were examined by authorities, who said the deaths were caused by pneumonia.
It is yet unclear what caused the other deaths, with investigations ongoing.
Dozens of Orang Asli are being treated at the Raja Perempuan Zainab II Hospital in Kota Bharu. They include three-year-old Nasri Rosli, who is in a critical but stable condition.
Nasri is suffering from pneumonia, according to Mr Waytha Moorthy, and the boy is currently in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. His father, Rosli Jong, 30, is also in the hospital after he was suspected of contracting the illness. Both were admitted on Sunday.
"I am very satisfied with the intensive treatment the hospital provided him and I am impressed with the commitment, treatment and personal care he received,” the minister said. "Rosli will be placed nearer his son after he is discharged."
READ: Kelantan settlement cordoned off after Orang Asli deaths, cause of illness yet to be identified
The remains of 25-year-old Romi Hamdan were also exhumed on Thursday for a second postmortem. He had died of pneumonia and was buried on May 30.
The identities of the four bodies which were found on Thursday have yet to be determined, Mr Waytha Moorthy said. They are believed to have died from lung infections as well.
The remains were not removed and location markers were placed in the area, pending further action.
"NADMA (National Disaster Management Agency), PDRM (Royal Malaysian Police), the Forensics Unit and others have entered the forest area to identify the points where the bodies were buried,” he told reporters. "The place is quite difficult to enter and boats are required in the more remote areas.”
The affected area is located in the Gua Musang district. Malaysian police on Wednesday declared it a Red Zone, prohibiting entrance to the village until the operation and investigations were completed.
REMAINS FOUND ON TREES
On Wednesday, police discovered four bodies and identified them as Din Hamdan, 18, Safia Papan, 18, Fayah Papan, 19, and Jais Keladi, 55.
Din’s body was found beneath a tree, with his bones scattered while the bodies of Safia, Fayah and Jais were found placed on trees and covered with mats.
Other skeletal remains, believed to belong to someone from the Batek tribe, were also found on Wednesday scattered on the ground and on a tree, said Kelantan Police Chief Hasanuddin Hassan.
Mr Waytha Moorthy said that there was no need to move those living in the affected area.
He said: "The situation is still under control ... and we fear they may not feel comfortable if we relocate them ... we do not want to put pressure on them (Orang Asli) and make them run deeper into the jungle."
Kelantan’s Deputy Chief Minister Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah said on Wednesday that the outbreak had nothing to do with water pollution or logging activities.
He added that this was confirmed by several government agencies, including the Department of Health and the Hazardous Materials Unit of the Department of Fire and Rescue Malaysia.