Remko Tanis • 12 November 2018

Imagine it’s a regular Friday morning. You’re a 19-year old dude in Kuala Lumpur walking out of your housing estate when a bicycle part falls from the sky and hits you on the head.

Next thing you know, you’re left with a bloody face and fifteen stitches in your scalp.

Rain, of the regular variety, over Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Photo: (C) Remko Tanis

It happened to Muhammad Iqmal Abdul Razak. The 19-year old Malaysian lives on the 6th floor of Block 41 of the Gombak Setia public housing estate, on the northern edge of Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur.

Iqmal filed a police report, though it’s going to be hard to figure out which of his neighbors threw the wheel over the balcony.

At least Iqmal lived to tell about it. Earlier this year, 15-year old S. Sathiswaran and his mom were returning home from grocery shopping when an office chair fell from the sky. It hit the boy in the head. He died.


Residents of high-rise public housing estates in Kuala Lumpur throwing trash over their balconies -even when living on higher floors- is a recurring issue.

Back in April I was the editor on a feature about this phenomenon. It's written by T.K. Letchumy Tamboo and published in Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post.

One of the people featured in the piece is Minachi Munianday, who runs a small convenience store on the ground floor of a KL housing estate. She herself was hit on the head by a flowerpot filled with wet sand, which was thrown down from one of the higher floors. She needed eight stitches to close up her scalp. In the article, she says:

“I have seen the worst things falling down in the past 12 years, from small stuff like punctured footballs and broken brooms, to large items including a ceramic sink, which hit the ground and broke into a million pieces. Imagine if that had hit someone.”

Authorities reacted to Sathiswaran’s death by installing safety nets on the building where he lived, to catch trash before it hits the ground. And of course there were the usual promises of public awareness campaigns and the issuing of ‘stern warnings’.

Nothing that was of any use in preventing Iqmal from getting his head split open by a bicycle wheel.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Photo: (C) Remko Tanis

High-rise trash throwing isn’t an exclusively Malaysian issue. I covered the exact same thing in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, back in 2000 when I was just starting out as journalist. It even happens in tidy Singapore.

Last April, South China Morning Post followed up on the feature from Malaysia with a piece on what’s been raining down from high-rise buildings in Hong Kong. Anything from sledgehammers to dogs and a rucksack filled with cash, it turns out.