June 2015 – MALAYSIA – Two people have died and more than 100 have been left stranded after an earthquake near Malaysia’s highest peak, officials say. The bodies of a local guide and a 12-year-old Singaporean girl were recovered from Mount Kinabalu, on the island of Borneo, local media say. The 6.0 magnitude earthquake triggered landslides, trapping 137 climbers on the mountain. Many have been trying to descend with the help of park rangers and guides. Police chief Jalaluddin Abdul Rahman confirmed the two fatalities but would not give any further details.
Initial attempts to rescue the survivors, some of whom are trapped under rocks, had to be abandoned because of bad weather. Helicopters were unable to land and the climbing route was made dangerous by rocks and boulders. Several of those injured have successfully made it down and many more are expected to reach base camp by Saturday morning, according to Sabah Parks director Jamili Nais. The earthquake was so powerful it also snapped off one of Mount Kinabalu’s “Donkey’s Ear” peaks. The tourism minister for Sabah state said that 32 guides were assisting the climbers on their way down, with the group moving “cautiously due to (a) damaged trail. Other than ongoing rescue efforts, our priority is to send food, drinks and warm clothing to those still stranded on the mountain,” he said. Some of the group had climbed to the summit to watch the sunrise as the earthquake struck.
The US Geological Survey said the quake happened at around 07:15 local time (00:15 BST), at a depth of 10km (32,800ft). The epicenter was 54km (33 miles) from Mount Kinabalu, which stands at 4,095m. Many climbers are attracted to the challenging “via ferrata” climbing route, where cables, metal rungs and bridges are set into the rocks on the steep terrain to help people ascend. All activity on the mountain has now been suspended. –BBC
11 more bodies recovered, dozens still missing: Rescuers recovered the bodies of 11 more climbers from Malaysia’s highest peak on Saturday, a day after it was struck by a strong earthquake, bringing the total number of dead to 13. Six people remained missing on 4,095-meter (13,435-foot) -high Mount Kinabalu in eastern Sabah state on Borneo, where a magnitude-5.9 earthquake on Friday sent rocks and boulders raining down the trekking routes, trapping dozens of climbers. “This is a very sad day for Kinabalu,” said Sabah’s tourism minister, Masidi Manjun. Nine of the bodies found Saturday were flown out by helicopter, while the other two were brought down by foot, said district police official Farhan Lee Abdullah.
Most of the other climbers made it down the mountain in the darkness early Saturday, some with broken limbs and one in a coma. The two dead retrieved Friday evening were a 30-year-old local guide and a 12-year-old Singaporean student, Farhan said. Police said earlier Saturday that they were looking for 17 other people, including eight Singaporeans and one each from China, the Philippines and Japan. The rest are Malaysians. The nationalities of the 11 dead recovered Saturday were not immediately clear. About 60 rescuers and four helicopters were combing the mountain, where loose rocks and boulders that fell during the quake blocked part of the main route.
The quake also damaged roads and buildings, including schools and a hospital on Sabah’s west coast. It also broke one of the twin rock formations on the mountain known as the “Donkey’s Ears.” The mountain will be closed for three weeks for maintenance work, and flags will be flown at half-staff in Sabah on Monday to mourn the victims, Masidi said. Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Pairin Kitingan blamed the tragedy on a group of 10 foreigners who “showed disrespect to the sacred mountain” by posing naked at the peak last week. He said a special ritual would be conducted later to “appease the mountain spirit.” The foreigners, who included two Canadians, two Dutch and a German national, broke away from their entourage and stripped naked before taking photos at the mountain peak on May 30, officials have said. –NY Times