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Forested area where woman was found motionless not a designated hiking trail, highly risky, say seasoned hikers

SINGAPORE — The forested area along Upper Bukit Timah Road where a woman was found motionless and later died, is not a designated hiking trail and is highly risky, especially since there are still ruins of a former village there, said seasoned hikers.

Forested area where woman was found motionless not a designated hiking trail, highly risky, say seasoned hikers

A view of a segment of the forested area where a woman was found unconscious and later died in hospital. Seasoned hikers said that the area was the former site of a village called Kampung Mendoza.

  • Seasoned hikers said the area where a woman was found motionless is not a designated hiking trail
  • The terrain in that area is also largely concealed by overgrown vegetation
  • They warned that hiking in that area comes with high risks due to wildlife, the vegetation and terrain

SINGAPORE — The forested area along Upper Bukit Timah Road where a woman was found motionless and later died, is not a designated hiking trail and is highly risky, especially since there are still ruins of a former village there, seasoned hikers said.

It did not help that the terrain is largely concealed by overgrown vegetation in the area, they added. 

A 48-year-old woman, believed to be Sergeant Melita Dollah, an auxiliary police officer with security firm Aetos, was found motionless in the forested area on Sunday afternoon (Dec 19), and later pronounced dead when she was taken to the hospital.

The Straits Times reported on Tuesday that a concrete slab had fallen on her and that the incident appears to have occurred on state land near the Bukit Batok Nature Park, which is opposite Bukit Timah Hill.

Seasoned hikers told TODAY that the forested area was the former site of Kampung Mendoza, one of the last villages in Singapore that was obliterated in the 1980s under the Government’s plan to remove all squatters and villages.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority's Master Plan 2019 states that the particular area there is slated to be used as a park.

Avid hiker Hidayat Zulkifli said that although the area may be near the regularly frequented Bukit Batok Nature Park and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, it was not well-known or well-trodden among hikers because it has been “consumed entirely” by nature since the demolition of the village.

Mr Hidayat, 30, a student affairs officer who has hiked through the area in the past, added that there are no overhanging concrete slabs, but there are remnants of concrete structures that resemble walls, a veranda and a toilet — all indications that people once lived among the overgrowths there.

“Seeing how long all those remnants have stood in time and in decay, it is not a wonder that they may just give way and crumble at even the slightest of opportunity,” he added.

In a forested area along Upper Bukit Timah Road, which is said to be the former site of a village, there are remnants of concrete structures that resemble walls, a veranda and a toilet.

Seasoned hikers said that trekking in that area specifically comes with high risks due to wildlife, the vegetation and terrain.

“Since it is geographically situated near hilly grounds, the terrain is fundamentally undulating and sloping, littered with naturally occurring holes in the soil or from the removed foundations of the houses that used to make up the village,” Mr Hidayat said.

“Additionally, since the area is also not maintained, the dangerous spots of the terrain are largely concealed by overgrown vegetation and fallen trees.”

Agreeing, Mr Andrew Kam, another regular hiker who declined to reveal his age, said that the risks of trekking in non-designated trails are high due to the weathering of structures, environmental erosion and no monitoring of tree health, which can affect the safety of hikers.

Mr Howard Yu, who runs a tuition centre and has been hiking for more than 30 years, said that weather also plays a part. He noted that the level of rainfall last week was higher than average. 

“Rain can loosen the soil and cause the terrain to be more slippery. It can also weaken the structure of the ruins,” the 49-year-old added. 

When TODAY visited the area on Wednesday evening, there were no signs or marked paths that led into the forested area beside Bukit Batok Nature Park.

After entering about 20m deep through a pavement beside The Hillside condominum, traces of what appeared to be ruins of abandoned structures could be seen, with bricks, concrete slabs and broken ceramic pots found on the forest floor.

Along the way, thorny vines, dense vegetation and steep drops presented a challenge for people trekking through the area.

Mr Joven Chiew, 50, the founder of Facebook group Singapore Hikers, said that when the ground becomes unstable, hikers run the chance of getting lost or injured, or worse, not being able to get a mobile signal if they need to call for help.

Some dangers in the undeveloped trail also include potential encounters with wild animals such as wild boar and hornets, he added.

The hikers urged the public to avoid veering off designated hiking trails, especially if they are unfamiliar with the area.

“Even if you are familiar and in groups, always keep a lookout and assess the safety aspects first, before going in or doing anything further, including looking at weather forecasts before setting out,” Mr Hidayat said.

Mr Chiew, who is head of sales at a software company, advised hikers to always inform a family member or another person about where they are heading.

They should also carry a basic first-aid kit, in case of accidents.

“Always know where you are going. You might want to be familiarised with the area before you go, look at online maps and have a mental map of where you will be walking,” Mr Chiew added. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY DARYL CHOO

Related topics

hiking death forest Upper Bukit Timah Road Kampung Mendoza

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