Malaysian baby saved by floating mattress

Malaysian baby saved by floating mattress

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec. 28 Kyodo

A 20-day-old baby survived Malaysia’s worst natural disaster Sunday thanks to a floating mattress, official news agency Bernama reported late Monday.

As the tsunami sparked by a massive earthquake off Sumatra hit Malaysia’s northern Penang state Sunday, sweeping away scores of people, S. Tulasi, who was sleeping in a room behind her father’s restaurant, was also swept into the water.

”We were all caught off guard when the wave hit us. I was thrown several meters but managed to hold onto one of the posts. But my 12-year old daughter was swept away by the wave,” the father, A. Suppiah, 55, told Bernama.

He and his wife then braved the waters to look for their baby.

”I thought I had lost both my daughters, but, thank God, the mattress was floating in about 1.5 meters of water and my baby was crying,” he said.

Suppiah’s other daughter was also safe.

Still, Penang was the worst hit state in the country with a death toll of 49 of the 63 known killed so far. The authorities said at least 26 people are missing and 183 injured.

A spokesman from the federal police headquarters told Kyodo News that authorities counted the 63 dead as of noon Tuesday.

So far there are no foreign casualties, although the worst-hit areas such as Batu Ferringhi Beach in Penang and Langkawi Island are popular tourist destinations.

Most of the known victims were picnickers and jet-skiers.

But the magnitude of destruction in Malaysia is still minimal compared to Sri Lanka, India and Thailand where the death tolls are in the several thousands.

And Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak told reporters Tuesday the economic impact is ”manageable.”

”It is not as adverse, the impact on the economy. There might be some setback in the tourism industry…but it is going to be only a temporary setback…We did not get the full brunt of the tsunami,” he said.

But on the heels of criticism about the lack of warning of the tsunami, Najib said the government would consider installing a tsunami warning system.

”It is very expensive,” he said, adding, ”This thing has never (before) happened in the history of this country.”

Local newspapers reported Najib as saying the government would invite Japanese experts to advise on an alarm system.

Experts said the waves traveled for close to two hours from the epicenter of the earthquake off Indonesia before hitting Malaysian shores.

It could have given authorities ample time to mount an evacuation, but tsunamis are extremely rare in the Indian Ocean and Malaysia, like the other tsunami-hit countries, does not have a system to send out warnings.

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