MALAYSIA– Eight school children drowned in the Muar river in Malaysia’s southern Johor state, police said on Sunday, in what officials described as a “shocking” and rare tragedy.
The drownings occured on Friday after the boys, aged between 13 to 16 years, went jogging along the river bank in Segamat district, local police chief Mohamad Kamil Sukarmi said.
Three bodies were retrieved on Friday while the remaining five were pulled out late Saturday, he added.
Describing the incident, Mohamed Kamil said one of the boys went for a swim in the river, close to where sand mining activities were being carried out, but got into difficulties.
“Upon seeing their friend in trouble, the other seven boys jumped in to save him. Unfortunately all eight drowned,” he said.
Mohamed Kamil said there was a “sea of sadness” sweeping the nearby housing estate where the boys were from and where many residents are casual workers.
“This is a shocking tragedy. It should not have happened,” he said.
Shafila Abdullah a young teen said, losing eight friends in one day is more than she can bear. The 16-year-old was the only girl in the group of 14 friends who had gone jogging along the Muar River on Friday before eight of them drowned.
Shafila was still trying to come to grips with losing so many of her friends almost before her eyes as they had been with her and five others just minutes before their deaths.
With tears in her eyes, Shafila said she would miss her friends and always remember their time together as the best moments of her life.
“All of them were my good friends. All of them treated me like a sister, but I was especially close to Mohd Shafiq (Md Syukor). I will miss him the most
“Now I will never again hear him sing and play the guitar to cheer me up whenever I am feeling down,” she said when met at the scene yesterday.
She said Mohd Shafiq was also the one with whom she shared most of her thoughts and feelings.
“After our morning jog, we were supposed to head to the town to celebrate another friend’s birthday. But it was not to be as eight of my friends drowned,” she said.
An emotionally distraught Puziyah Ahmad, 42, the mother of 14-year-old Mohd Nazreen Zainal, said that she felt relieved that her son’s body was found yesterday.
“I could not recognise my son at all because his body was bloated. It took me a while to recognise him.
“If I only knew this tragedy would happen, I would not have woken him up early on Friday so that he could join his friends to go jogging,” she said.
Kamil said some 130 rescue personnel including divers were involved in the two day rescue operation adding that all the bodies have been buried in the nearby cemeteries.