A 6.0 magnitude earthquake shook Malaysia’s Mount Kinabalu and its surrounding regions on the island of Borneo on early Friday, June 5, 2015.
The quake rocked the state of Sabah for nearly 30 seconds and damaged many buildings, but the damage was not severe. The police in the town of Ranau reported that many buildings had broken windows and cracked walls, and the roads were also ruined.
Over 200 climbers on Mount Kinabalu were stranded by the earthquake. At least 11 climbers have been reported to have head injuries and broken limbs. Sixteen people have been confirmed dead, including six Singaporean students, their teacher, and their guide while on a school trip.
The climbers, along with over 40 local tour guides, have been commanded by authorities to stay where they are because of the continuously falling rocks and blocked pathways.
One of the trapped climbers, Charlie Dmp, wrote on Facebook, “Currently we’re waiting for the helicopter to save us. We cannot go down for now because there are lots of stones falling, there’s no safe route down, and there are still tremors. Thank you for all your concern and prayers.”
Many foreigners were also climbing the mountain, including 38 Singaporeans, five Americans, four Dutch, three British, two French, two Australians, and countless others from Belgium, Thailand, the Philippines, Kazakhstan, India, New Zealand, South Korea, Denmark, and China. One hundred and seventeen of the climbers are also Malaysian.
The mountain, which is one of the highest peaks in South Asia at 4,095 meters, is a popular tourist attraction due to the iconic “Donkey Ears,” two rock formations that resemble the ears of a donkey. Following the earthquake, one of the “ears” tumbled down the mountain, much to the distraught of the locals.
“Bad news confirmed! part of the iconic ‘Donkey’s Ear’ @Mount Kinabalu is gone due to strong tremor this morning,” tweeted State Tourism Minister Masidi Manjun.
All activities on the mountain, including climbing, have been stopped until conditions are once again safe.
“It is very sad when a popular tourist area is hit by a disaster like this,” said freshman Emily Christensen. “People who went to the mountain to have a fun time with their families and friends are now trapped with little to no supplies and a lot of fear and stress.”
Jamili Nais, the State Parks Director of Sabah, said that two of the injured have been rescued, but the others still remain stranded on the peak. Nais told the New Straits Times that helicopters would be used to bring the injured climbers down from the mountain, but it was reported that some helicopters were unable to land on the mountain due to bad weather conditions.
Other officials announced that park rangers and local mountain guides might try to bring supplies to the injured by walking up the mountain on foot instead. Manjun said that people living in villages close to the mountain have taken part in the rescue efforts to help the climbers as well.
A local tribal group called the Kadazan Dusun considers Mount Kinabalu to be a sacred resting place for dead spirits. They claim that a group of foreigners that took nude pictures of themselves on the peak and posted them online are the reason why the spirits were angered, and they brought on the earthquake as punishment.
Freshman Angelica Piccini said, “It is pretty disrespectful for the tourists to do something like that at a holy site. While they might not necessarily be responsible for the quake, they should not have taken those pictures in the first place because it is incredibly rude.”
Khairy Jamaluddin, Malaysia’s Minister for Youth and Sports, said on Tuesday, June 9 that the country will have to review and revise the safety procedures for climbing Mount Kinabalu to prevent future difficulties from arising during natural disasters.
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