MIRI, Sept 21 — The newly-discovered air-raid shelter, believed to have been used by the Japanese army during World War II (WWII), has the potential to become the city’s next tourist attraction, provided that it undergoes comprehensive preservation works.
The underground shelter, located about 100m away from the Central Fire and Rescue station at Jalan Miri-Pujut, is estimated to span about 12m, from the entrance to the exit.
The entry hole, about 40cm to 45cm in width, could only accommodate one person of a petite build to pass it, whilte the whole shelter could fit up of 25 people at any one time.
The exit is a square-shaped opening that requires a person to crawl out on four limbs.
Despite having been abandoned for several decades, the walls and the ground of the shelter are well-preserved, without any vegetative overgrowth.
Assistant Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Sebastian Ting, who visited the shelter yesterday, said despite all the excitement, it would be best for the site to be sealed until an investigation could be carried out by the Sarawak Museum Department.
“This is another product of tourism; therefore it is best to ensure the safety aspects of the site, before we could decide the next step,” said Ting.
The site, which was likely built during WWII, appears vulnerable.
In this regard, Ting stressed for a proper investigation to be conducted to protect it as a heritage site.
Accompanying Ting during the inspection were acting Miri Resident Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusuf, Petroleum Museum officer-in-charge Ahmad Muharram, and members of Miri Oil Town Hash House Harriers (MOTHHH), Miri Hash House Harriers (MHHH) and Bulatan Park Runners Club (BPRC).
Mayor Adam Yii, who visited the site on Sept 18, said the area should be properly preserved and protected in view of its status as a part of Miri’s history.
“We have heard a lot about air-raid shelters and underground tunnels being discovered at different parts of Miri. As for this shelter, the locals believe that it was used by the Japanese army for defence. Regardless of whether these stories are true or merely rumours, this site should be protected because it is significant to Miri,” said Yii.
After a check on the outer area of the shelter, Ahmad said a special team from Sarawak Museum Department would investigate several sites in Canada Hill, which had attracted some attention.
“It is best to seal these sites off to ensure safety, and also to prevent any unwanted incident befalling any visitor.
“This air-raid shelter seems to be an underground shelter, dug through the soil. After a long period, there’s a risk of the structure collapsing,” said Ahmad. — Borneo Post Online