KAMPAR, Tues: Police have confirmed that of the 22 pupils feared drowned after a suspension bridge collapsed over the Kampar river last night; 19 have been accounted for, two are still missing and the body of a pupil has been recovered.
The tragedy occurred during a school camping trip in Kuala Dipang near Ipoh.
Police said the body of Dina Deve a/p Nathan was found at 8.40am today and 19 other pupils earlier feared drowned were safe.
The search and rescue operation involved 222 personnel led by the police, with assistance from the General Operations Force, navy, fire and rescue department, People's Volunteer Corps (Rela), Civil Defence Department and other agencies.
|K. Mathivanan, 12, said the bridge had swayed a lot before it collapsed as several of the pupils were jumping about and playing with one another.|
The pupils were among 298 from 60 primary schools in Kampar, Tronoh and Batu Gajah who were to participate in a 1Malaysia camp organised by the Kinta Selatan District Education Department starting today.
They had come yesterday for the registration and were walking across the bridge from the campsite to the school to have their dinner when the accident happened.
Parents of the pupils rushed to the school upon hearing news of the accident, and several of them became angry when they could not confirm the safety of their children even as late as 3am.
A pupil, K. Mathivanan, 12, said the bridge collapsed all of a sudden when about 30 to 50 pupils were on it, some walking to the school and others returning to the campsite.
He said the bridge had swayed a lot before it collapsed as several of the pupils were jumping about and playing with one another.
"All of a sudden, we found ourselves thrown into the river. I managed to hold on to a rope. The current was swift but I managed to drag myself out of the water," he said.
The bridge, about 50 metres long, was built about two weeks ago to replace an old one which had collapsed, said a member of the school's Parent-Teacher Association.
A teacher, Mohd Safri Abdul Rafar, said he was not far from the bridge when it collapsed and quickly jumped over a fence and dived into the river in the attempt to rescue the pupils.
"I managed to pull out three or four pupils. The current was swift and I almost got dragged away," he said. Safri said he went into the river again and pulled out five more pupils.
A guard of the school, who identified himself as Idris, said he pulled out six pupils from the river.
Twenty-three teachers were involved in the camp, the second to be organised by the Kinta Selatan district education department after the first one held at the Sekolah Kebangsaan Pos Raya last week.
Similar camps were to be held simultaneously today in the Larut, Matang and Selama as well as Manjung district, said Safri, adding that the pupils were from all races and the aim of the camp was to foster unity and interaction through activities such as traditional cooking, cultural training and games.
Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir visited the scene of the accident last night and ordered an immediate investigation.
"The suspension bridge was newly built. We want to know if it was built to specifications as it collapsed after a metal pillar got ripped off the ground," he said.
A metal pillar and its concrete block foundation was ripped off the ground in the incident and part of the bridge walkway was afloat on the river.
The Kampar River is known for extreme water sports. The part of the river where the bridge collapsed is about 30 metres wide and 1.5 metres deep. -- BERNAMA