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Decades after collapse, Highland Towers folk now haunted by crime

Twenty-three years after one of the three blocks of the Highland Towers in Ampang, Selangor collapsed, the area has become a hideout for criminals and drug addicts.

The notorious tower collapse of 1993 took 48 lives, including the son and daughter-in-law of former deputy prime minister Musa Hitam.

Residents of Taman Hillview and Taman Sri Ukay are now urging the demolition of the remaining two nearby abandoned buildings which have become crime hideouts.

Taman Sri Ukay Hillview Residents Association president Siti Hendon Chik, who represents more than 1,000 residents in the two housing estates, said the residents were unanimous in seeking the demolition of the two standing 12-storey towers after one collapsed 23 years ago.

So long as the empty buildings remain, they would be conducive hideouts for criminals and drug addicts, she said.

She warned that the residents might take legal action against the landowner for refusal to demolish the buildings to ensure the safety of the residents as there could still be criminals hiding there.

"Please do something ...," she pleaded when met by this Bernama reporter at her home.

Hive of crime

On April 12, police shot dead three of six criminals believed to be robbery suspects in a raid on one of the condominium blocks.

This development has heightened the uneasiness of the residents.

What's more frightening is that the three other criminals managed to escape the raid.

Siti Hendon said the shooting incident had instilled more fear in the residents.

She said she almost became a victim of criminals when robbers attempted to enter her house two years ago.

"Luckily, my security guard saw the two men lurking at the verandah. They fled," she said.

Meanwhile, Mohinder Singh, 78, whose house is located close to the the main entrance to the towers, shared Siti Hendon's views, and urged the landowner to demolish the two remaining buildings.

He said the two abandoned towers were a security risk for the nearby residents and hoped that the owner would take immediate action to demolish them.

"That place is a nuisance, from drug addicts now to robbers. How are we going to be safe?

"It has been 23 years now after the incident (collapse of a tower). They had wanted to demolish the remaining buildings but up till today, the blocks are still there," he said.

MPAJ to meet

Ampang Jaya Municipal Council (MPAJ) president Abd Hamid Hussain said the council would hold a meeting with the bank which owns the land to discuss the issue.

He said the meeting was expected to be held within this week and he hoped that there would be a solution to satisfy the needs of the residents.

When asked if the council could force the landowner to demolish the buildings, Abd Hamid said it was not possible unless there was "solid evidence" that the buildings were unsafe and may collapse.

He asked the residents to be patient until the landowner came up with a decision whether to demolish the buildings or otherwise.

Attempts by Bernama to contact the bank since last Thursday have been futile.

A check by this Bernama reporter at the scene found that the public can easily trespass into the Highland Towers area. The front gate has been tampered with and cut, leaving a small 'door' that can easily give access to anyone.

Apart from that, the buildings do not have a perimeter fence, making it easy for anyone to trespass especially through the forest and undergrowth.

There are houses within 500 metres of the towers, making them an easy target of criminals hiding there.

- Bernama

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