Archives 2019

Some items from the 2019 press relating to caves

Contents :

Minex in danger of being quarried
Batu Caves needs the attention of scientists
Niah Cave – World Heritage & upgrading work
Gunung Baling fire
Gunung Pulai quarry project
Niah bones returning home
Article on Mulu in Nat Geog mag
Sarawak Museum to open Sept 2020
Land clearing adjacent to Mulu
Drought in Mulu area
27th Mulu expedition
Quarrying at Niah
Kinta Valley Geopark
Writing in Gua Datok
YTL buys LafargeHolcim stake
Langkawi geopark
Perak underground water
Rockfall in Simpang Pulai quarry
Flash flood in Mulu kills 2 people
Madai Caves may be opened to the public
Caves feature on Malaysian stamps
Tasik Kenyir to be a Geopark?
Limestone research station at Gunung Tempurung
Gunung Lanno protection
Human habitation at Niah now 100,000 years old
Rescue team for Mulu
Safety checks in Perak Caves
Mulu October 2019 expedition
Lenggong Valley in danger of losing World Heritage status
Niah Caves, tourists and climate change

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Minex in danger of being quarried

The year started with news that the Minex lake in Gunung Rapat is in possible danger of being quarried. Quarrying has taken place for years quite close to the lake, so I don’t know if this is a really new threat. The Star 1 Jan “Mirror lake allegedly threatened by quarrying activities”.

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Batu Caves needs the attention of scientists

A detailed article in Utusan Online on 18 Jan, (in Malay), “Batu Caves perlu perhatian ahli sains”. The article seems to be well researched and describes the fauna in Dark Cave.

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Niah’s bid for World Heritage status

The Malay Mail on 22 Jan “Sarawak to re-submit bid to make Niah Caves Unesco heritage site”. There  have been lots of discussions about getting the caves onto the UNESCO list. “In 2010, the government nominated the park and its caves in the world heritage list. However, the site was excluded in the revised tentative list of the government in 2017.”  Archaeological work at Niah shows evidence of human settlement from 65,000 years ago. One of the problems with the hoped for listing is the quarrying activities around Niah. Similar article in Utusan Online, 22 Jan, “Sarawak mahu Gua Niah disenarai sebagai tapak warisan UNESCO”.

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Niah Cave upgrading work

The Borneo Post on 22 Jan had an article “Niah Caves facilities to be upgraded as it strives to be Unesco heritage site”. On 24 Jan “Niah Caves in need of better infrastructure”.  The infrastructure upgrading project has been approved. This is part of the efforts to list Niah Caves as a Unesco World Heritage Site. The works will be for the bridge across the river and the access path to the caves.  And apparently on 22 Jan the chief minister said that the Sarawak government will not issue any quarry licence that will affect the Niah  caves, as it has proposed through the federal government to the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) to list the Niah Caves as a World Heritage Site in 2010.
In April the Borneo Post reported on 4th “Niah Caves to have proper infrastructure built soonest”. The construction of infrastructure facilities is expected to start this year.

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Fire on Gunung Baling, Kedah

Bernama 7 Feb “Firefighters in uphill battle against Gunung Baling fire” and  7 Feb “Gunung Baling fire spreads further”. Bernama 8 Feb “Gunung Baling fire being monitored to prevent it from spreading” and also on 8 Feb “Firefighters use water bombing against raging Gunung Baling fire”. The NST 8 Feb reported “Gunung Baling forest fire spreading: Fire and Rescue Dept” and later on 8 Feb “Firefighters use water bombing against raging Gunung Baling Fire”, and 9 Feb “Gunung Baling fire almost contained”. Bernama 9 Feb “Gunung Baling fire now 85 per cent contained”, then also on 9 Feb “Hot weather, strong winds reignite Gunung Baling fire”. The Star 9 Feb reported “Water bombing brings Gunung Baling fire under control” and a later update “Gunung Baling fire almost 85% extinguished, firefighters monitoring situation”. But later on 9 Feb, NST “Hot weather, strong winds reignite Gunung Baling fire”. Bernama on 10 Feb “Only one hostpot [sic] remains in Gunung Baling fire outbreak”. The fire had started on the 6th Feb. It was put out by the 13th, Star 14 Feb “Blaze at Gunung Baling finally put out”. Care was taken to prevent the fire from spreading to the adjacent Gunung Pulai, where there was a fire in 2016. Gunung Pulai is currently under threat from quarrying.

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Gunung Pulai quarry

There has been a lot of talk on social media about the proposed quarrying of Gunung Pulai at Baling, Kedah. Utusan Online on 9 Feb “Penduduk desak hentikan projek kuari di Gunung Pulai”[Residents want to stop the quarry project at Gunung Pulai]. Local residents held a peaceful protest. They had held a similar protest in 2018. The local government has been silent on the matter. The residents are worried they will suffer the same problems that residents around the nearby Bukit Puyuh have experienced since 1969 – ‘dust, house fracture and other diseases caused by floods in quarries’. They are also concerned that the project will affect the ecosystems in 12 caves found in Gunung Pulai and animal habitats as well as natural vegetation. Also the threat of pollution of nearby rivers.
The residents held another protest, Sinar Harian 6 July, “Penduduk bantah operasi kuari”, Residents protest quarry operations. An article on 8 Aug in Sinar Harian said the quarry project at Gunung Pulai is guaranteed to have no environmental impact, “Projek kuari di Gunung Pulai dijamin tidak jejas alam sekitar: Mukhriz”.

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Niah bones returning home

In 2017 it was announced that the human remains from Niah Cave which were taken to Nevada in the United States in the 1960s, will be returned to Sarawak in 2019. In 2019, Borneo Post 27 Jan “Abdul Karim: Government to bring Niah Caves’ human remains home”; the NST on 9 Feb wrote ” ‘Niah Men’ coming home”. It is hoped to bring the bones back by the end of the year. Borneo Post 9 Feb “Sarawak to bring human skeletons found in Niah Caves back from US”. Berita Harian 9 Feb “‘Orang Niah’ dijangka pulang ke tanah air tahun ini”, (‘Niah people’ are expected to return home this year). The NST 10 Apr “Negotiation in progress for return of Niah Cave human remains from America”. Berita Harian on 10 Sept “Sarawak akan bawa kembali rangka manusia awal ke Gua Niah” (Sarawak will bring the human skeleton back to Niah Cave). The skeleton is 65,000 years old, not 40,000 as first thought. On 23 Nov Berita Harian said “Rangka manusia Gua Niah dibawa pulang tahun depan (Niah’s skeleton will come home next year). The bones are now expected in February.  And National Heritage is now working with the Sarawak state government to nominate Niah Cave as the newest World Heritage Site.

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Article on Mulu in Nat Geog mag

An interesting article on Mulu, “Step inside this massive cave labyrinth hidden under Borneo” published in the March edition of National Geographic magazine. There are some stunning photos.

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Sarawak Museum to open Sept 2020

The Borneo Post on 21 Feb reported that the “Sarawak Museum Campus open to public in Sept 2020”. Although the project is almost complete, it will take time to move the historical artefacts and display them accurately. The museum is “set to be the second biggest museum in South East Asia”. The museum has been closed since 2017.

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Land clearing adjacent to Mulu

The Star had several articles about the land clearing adjacent to Mulu National Park. The native Berawans and Penans held protests. 19 Feb “SAM: Forests adjacent to Mulu cut down, human blockades widen”; 20 Feb “Mulu forest-clearing halted for now due to human blockades”;  21 Feb “Assemblyman tells company to halt forest-clearing near Mulu Park”; 25 Feb “Locals’ protests not heard, says Sahabat Alam Malaysia”; 8 Mar “Taking steps to protect Mulu”. Borneo Post also had several reports, 24 Jan “Mulu natives urge CM to stop oil palm plantations”; 22 Feb “Sarawak government needs to resolve issue of oil palm plantation development near Mulu Park — Kok”; 23 Feb “Len Talif: ‘Deforestation in Mulu’ technically incorrect”;  24 Feb “Land clearing activities outside and far from Mulu National Park – Sarawak Forest Department”. This new continued the following month: The Star 8 Mar “Taking steps to protect Mulu”; 14 Mar “Sarawak natives bringing Mulu forest dispute to Unesco’s attention”; 17 Mar “Fresh confrontations near Mulu National Park, natives block logging machinery from clearing forest”; 20 Mar “Sarawak Forestry Dept told to suspend permit of oil palm giant clearing land near Mulu National Park, says source”;  22 Mar “Logging activity suspended”;  24 Mar “NGOs in new twist to Mulu saga”. Star 2 May “1km buffer zone imposed to protect Mulu National Park”; 6 May “Mulu Penans bring their case against plantation to Europe”; 10 May “Activists take Mulu land dispute to Europe, release documentary”.
The Star 2 May reported “1km buffer zone imposed to protect Mulu National Park”.
The Star 6 Aug “Natives file suit over logging near Mulu”.

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Drought in Mulu area

Water had to be flown into Mulu park, because of a drought. The Star 30 Apr “Water supplies airlifted to Mulu Park residents after taps run dry”. There was also smog in Miri, Stat 9 May “Miri choked in smog yet again”.

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27th Mulu expedition

The 27th Anglo-Malaysian expedition to Mulu took place in April to May. The aim was to connect caves in the Gunung Api southern peninsula.
See some photos on wildplaces. 

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Quarrying at Niah

FreeMalaysiaToday on 12 Apr “The sad state of quarrying at Niah National Park”. The article mentions how quarrying is encroaching onto the national park.

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Kinta Valley Geopark

The Kinta Valley Geopark was declared in Oct 2018. But it is already under threat, the Malay Mail 15 Apr “Second geopark in jeopardy due to forest farm project?”. There are claims that a forest farm development project is located within its confines. However there is a “Move to get Kinta Valley recognised as Unesco site”, Star 2 Aug.
The Star on 17 Oct “Expansion of national park in the pipeline”, reported that Tasek Cermin at Gunung Rapat will be included in the Geopark. However Gunung Rapat is already on the list. According to this report the cave sites are: Gua Tambun, Gunung Datok, Gunung Rapat, Gunung Kanthan, Gunung Lang, Gunung Tasek, Gua Naga Mas, Gua Kandu & Gua Tempurung.

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Writing in Gua Datok

The Star 27 Apr “Japanese, Chinese writing dating back to 1913 found in Tambun’s Gunung Datok cave”. The article had a few odd comments, mainly about the use of the cave during war time. However on 2 May The Star had a much better article “Japanese writings found on cave walls”. This was quite detailed about the writing relating to a temple once housed in the cave. And there is also a translation of some of the writing. See also my blog.

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YTL buys LafargeHolcim stake

The Star Business section, 2 May wrote “YTL Corp buys LafargeHolcim 51% stake in Lafarge Malaysia for US$396mil” :
YTL Corp Bhd said its subsidiary YTL Cement Bhd, has agreed to acquire LafargeHolcim’s entire 51% stake in Lafarge Malaysia Bhd for US$396mil. With the divestment, LafargeHolcim will fully exit the Malaysian market, the Switzerland-based company said in a statement posted on its website today.
And The Star 3 May “YTL buys rival Lafarge Malaysia” :
“The acquisition will be carried out via YTL’s unit – YTL Cement Bhd – and will subsequently see Swiss-based LafargeHolcim exiting the Malaysian building material scene completely. The takeover will also see YTL shaping up to be the largest cement company in Malaysia.”

Lafarge merged with Holcim in 2015 . 

Lafarge is the company quarrying Gunung Kanthan in Perak.

This is from the Lafarge www in Oct “Lafarge Malaysia has been renamed as Malayan Cement. It follows the divestment of the cement producer from LafargeHolcim to YTL Cement in May 2019”. And on the Malayan Cement www “Lafarge Malayan Cement is the leader of the Malaysian cement industry and a major player in the Asian export market. We operate a nationwide network of facilities which include three integrated cement plants in Langkawi, Kanthan and Rawang.”

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Langkawi geopark

Friends of Langkawi Geopark (FLAG) want to capitalise on the Langkawi Unesco Global Geopark to promote knowledge-based tourism in the run-up to Visit Malaysia Year 2020. The Star 9 May “Make geopark a knowledge-based tourism site”.

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Perak underground water

I first read about large quantities of underground water in Perak in 2006. Since then various articles appeared, and the last one I saw was in 2014. Five years later, on 27 May The Star “Govt to map, tap underground water, says Xavier Jayakumar”. No mention was specifically made of Perak. “Dr Xavier said that the mapping would be carried out initially in Johor, Kedah and Selangor.” Also there has been no mention of the “Singapore-size underground water cave” that was supposedly found in Perak in 2007.

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Rockfall in Simpang Pulai quarry kills operator

A rockfall in a quarry at Simpang Pulai, near Ipoh, Perak, crushed to death an excavator operator. The Star 2 July and (an update) 1 July. The quarry company had a permit from the state Minerals and Geoscience Department to operate there. An a related article in The Star 5 July “Rock blasting threatening beautiful hidden caves” referring to caves at Gunung Lanno.

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Flash flood in Mulu kills tourist

A flash flood in Deer Cave, Mulu, killed a Dutch tourist on 12 July. Initial reports said he was German. Eight other tourists were found safe. Bernama 12 July “German tourist missing after flash flood at Mulu National Park” and an update on 13 July “Dutch tourist found dead in Mulu National Park”. The Borneo Post 13 July “Dutch tourist found dead in Mulu National Park after flash floods hit Deer Cave, guide still missing”. The Star 13 July “Mulu cave flood: Dutch tourist dead, guide missing, eight others safe (Updated)”. At the time of that report, a local guide was still missing. The earlier report in The Star on 13 July wrongly stated the tourist was German, “Body of German tourist missing in Mulu cave flash flood found”. The NST 13 July “Missing Dutch tourist found dead in Mulu National Park”.  The Sun 13 July “German tourist found dead in Mulu National Park and then an update, 13 July “Dutch tourist found dead in Mulu National Park”. The search for the missing guide was called off for the day on 13th evening, Bernama 13 July “SAR at Mulu National Park suspended due to heavy rain”. The SUN 13 July “SAR at Mulu National Park suspended due to heavy rain”. The search resumed the next day, on 14 July, NST “Brother, villagers join SAR for missing tourist guide” and The Star 14 July “Five SAR teams comb vast Mulu cave to look for missing guide”. Borneo Post 14 July “SAR operation mounted to locate missing guide in Mulu National Park”. The SUN 14 July “Tour guide swept away in Mulu National Park, still not found”. The guide’s body was found the next day. Bernama 15 July “Body of heroic tour guide found in Mulu National Park”, Borneo Post 15th “Body of missing tourist guide found in Mulu’s Deer Cave”. The Star first report on 15 July, “Body believed to be of tour guide found by teams searching Mulu’s Deer Cave” and confirmation,  The Star “Body recovered from Mulu cave confirmed as that of missing tour guide”. NST 15 July “Body of missing tourist guide found”. The Sun 15 July “Body of heroic tour guide found in Mulu National Park”. The Borneo Post 18 July “Hero guide Roviezal’s body discovered in ‘Garden of Eden’ after laying down his life for tourists”. And more on the Dutchman who died, The Star, 17 July “Botanist had a vital role in book”.

During the rescue search, a new passage was found. The Star 15 July “Search-and-rescue teams discover new geological features under Mulu’s Deer Cave”. A 75 m passageway and a deep, dark pool beneath the Deer Cave was found, supposedly never seen before.
In April there was a drought in Mulu, see above.

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Madai Caves may be opened to the public

In August, the press reported that Madai Caves might be opened to the public, subject to approval from the Idahan community. The Star 3 Aug “Government open to developing Sabah’s Madai Caves as tourism destination”; 4 Aug “Govt mulls turning Madai Caves into tourist attraction”.

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Caves feature on Malaysian stamps

On 22 Aug Malaysia issued a set of stamps featuring caves. The caves are Gomantong and Niah, Tempurung and Gua Kelam. See more on stamps page. The Malay Mail 21 Aug “Sarawak’s Gua Niah and other Malaysian caves get spotlight in Pos Malaysia’s latest stamp series”.

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Tasik Kenyir to be a Geopark?

The SUN 2 Sept “Call to turn Tasik Kenyir into geopark to preserve its natural heritage, history”. There were plans in 2011to turn Tasik Kenyir into a geopark but this still hasn’t happened. Bewah Cave has been turned into a heritage site.

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Limestone research station at Gunung Tempurung

Utusan on 26 Sept reported that FRIM would set up the first limestone forest research station in the country at Gunung Tempurung. The station would cover  2.5 hectares including Gunung Tempurung, Gunung Rapat, Gunung Mesah, Gunung Kantan and Gunung Pondok. FRIM could conduct research on flora species found in limestone forest  and make a collection of herbarium species. FRIM director-general Datuk Dr Abd. Latif Mohmod said that with the establishment of the new SPF, we (Malaysia) have 15,000 species of flora and 40 % of them are located in areas of limestone that are easily endangered or destroyed if they are not protected. According to Dr. Abd. the area was created in Perak as it has the largest limestone area in the country. He said preliminary work such as land surveying had begun while construction of facilities such as herbarium and office buildings would begin next year.
This was reported in Perak Today on 27 Nov 2018 “Perak bakal jadi tapak penyelidikan ekosistem dan biodiversiti batu kapur” (Perak will be a research site for the ecosystem and biodiversity of limestone).

Interesting that Gunung Lanno hasn’t been mentioned, especially as FRIM has done a lot of work there. Also I’m not sure if Perak has the largest limestone area in the country!

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Gunung Lanno protection

In August and September there were a few articles about protecting Gunung Lanno. The Star 9 Aug “Ancient fossils cause for research”; 26 Aug “Take a hike back in time”; 5 Sept “Too soon to decide on Gunung Lanno’s preservation, says exco”; 7 Sept “Save limestone hills now”; 26 Sept ” ‘Stop encroaching into quarry sites at Gunung Lanno’ “. But then Perak Quarry Association commented asking people not to go to the caves, see Ipoh Echo 313.

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Human habitation at Niah now 100,000 years old

At the International Conference on Archaeology 2019 in Sarawak in Sept, Prof. Curnoe from Griffith University said that recent excavations at Traders’ Cave at Niah has revealed evidence of human habitation there more than 100,000 years ago. So this has more or less doubled the span of human history at Niah. See Sarawak Tribune 29 Sept. Further excavations will be done.
There was also further talk about Niah being designated as a World Heritage site.
The Borneo Post 27 Sept ” ‘Sarawak invests in digital tourism to open up job opportunities, generate new revenue streams’ “.

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Rescue team for Mulu

Search and rescue teams (SAR) are planned for Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia, to respond to emergencies on mountains and in caves. A MOSAR (mountain SAR) has already been set up in Sabah at Mt. Kinabalu. One cave rescue team is planned for Mulu. Bernama 14 Oct “More mountain and cave rescue teams will be set up – DG”. The article stated that cave rescue teams had already been established in Perak and Pahang. Borneo Post 14 Oct “Mountain and cave rescue team to be set up in Mulu National Park soon: Bomba DG”. NST 14 Oct “Fire Dept to set up more mountain, cave rescue teams”.  The Star 14 Oct “S’wak Fire and Rescue Dept: More mountain and cave SAR teams to be set up”. The Star 15 Oct “Dept to set up cave rescue team at Mulu park”.

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Safety checks in Perak Caves

The Star on 7 Nov reported “Perak Fire Dept conducting safety checks on caves”. The Fire and Rescue Dept is going to check around 30 caves to make sure they don’t post a threat to people. They include caves used for recreational purposes and temples. 30 members have been given special training. After they checks they will do “an analysis and prepare a report to make recommendations to the locations’ management committee on things to be done to enhance the safety features”.
Perak has its own cave rescue unit which was set up in 2018.

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Mulu October 2019 expedition

The 2019 Mulu Caves Project has finished, having explored over 10 km of new passage. This is their second expedition to Mulu this year. News so far mentions big extensions in Clearwater, as well as a high level climb in Hurricane Hole in Benarat.
See more on the MCP 2019-2.

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Lenggong Valley in danger of losing World Heritage status

The Star on 21 Dec carried several articles on the poor conditions of Lenggong Valley. The longest and most detailed article “Lenggong Valley, a World Heritage site, is in peril“. Since its inscription in 2012 little has been done to protect or maintain the various Lenggong sites which are now rather neglected. And even though Visit Malaysia Year 2020 is fast approaching, nothing is being done to improve things in Lenggong.
An additional article “Lenggong: Now you see it, now you don’t“. This is about the Perak Man exhibition in the Lenggong Archaeological Gallery  It says how the presentation of such an imp[important exhibit is very poor.
According to this report, “National Heritage Dept needs funds to maintain sites“, funding is the problem. Some of the Lenggong sites come under The National Heritage Department (NHD) whereas others under the State Government.
And this one “Lenggong Valley, not promoted, neglected by state govt, say local tourism industry players” .

The Star 20 Dec “Allocations provided for maintenance of Perak’s Lenggong Valley, says Ministry” opens with “The Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry maintains that it has given due attention to the development and maintenance of the Archaeological Valley of Lenggong in Perak since it was declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 2012.”

On 23 Dec The Star “Perak government says repair work on Lenggong in progress”. The Star 28 Dec “‘Step up Lenggong Valley protection’”.

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Niah Caves, tourists and climate change

A 3 part article in New Sarawak Tribune on tourists and climate change and how these affect sites such as caves. On 24 Dec “Marketing Sarawak’s cultural heritage tourism”. On 25 Dec “Threats facing Sarawak’s cultural tourism”, which talks about the effects tourists have on cultural sites, including Niah.  27 Dec “Climate change bad for natural heritage sites”. Archaeologist Darren Curnoe and Paul Tacon who have done a lot of work at Niah, talks about how extreme storms and extended droughts could affect the cave sediments and algal growth could affect the famous paintings.

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