Six Sin­ga­pore stu­dents among 16 killed af­ter Malaysia quake

The China Post - - BUSINESS - BY SATISH CHENEY

Six Sin­ga­pore el­e­men­tary school stu­dents and one teacher were among 16 peo­ple so far con­firmed killed by an earth­quake that rocked Malaysia’s Mount Kin­a­balu, gov­ern­ment au­thor­i­ties said on Sun­day.

Malaysian of­fi­cials said the death toll from the earth­quake that struck on Fri­day morn­ing had risen to 16, from an ear­lier 13, with two still miss­ing.

The Sin­ga­porean stu­dents were part of a school ex­cur­sion to the popular climb­ing des­ti­na­tion, which was jolted by a 6.0-mag­ni­tude quake just as the 4,095-me­ter-high moun­tain was crowded with hik­ers.

The tremor trig­gered thun­der­ous land­slides that oblit­er­ated sec­tions of trail on the peak, lo­cated in the state of Sabah on Bor­neo is­land.

Sin­ga­pore For­eign Min­is­ter K. Shan­mugam con­firmed the bod­ies of six stu­dents had been iden­ti­fied.

Sin­ga­pore’s gov­ern­ment also has said a teacher and a Sin­ga­porean adventure guide per­ished, while an­other stu­dent and a teacher re­mained miss­ing.

Malaysian of­fi­cials have said the stu­dents were aged 12 and 13.

“Look­ing at the pho­tos of th­ese chil­dren — such young lives, full of prom­ise, snuffed out,” Shan­mugam said in a Face­book post­ing, call­ing the episode “Sin­ga­pore’s tragedy in Sabah.”

Malaysian po­lice say the dead or miss­ing also in­clude sev­eral Malaysians, and one each be­lieved to be from China, Ja­pan and the Philip­pines.

But they were yet to pro­vide a de­tailed break­down, say­ing the poor state of some re­mains made iden­ti­fi­ca­tion dif­fi­cult.

Mo­ham­mad Farhan Lee Ab­dul­lah, po­lice chief of the town of Ranau near the moun­tain, said body parts had been found on sec­tions of the moun­tain, sug­gest­ing the awe­some power of the land­slides.

“They are in parts prob­a­bly be­cause of rocks and boul­ders fall­ing on them but we need to do foren­sics first,” Mo­ham­mad Farhan said.

Sin­ga­pore’s Straits Times news­pa­per said some of the Sin­ga­porean stu­dents were tak­ing a route to the sum­mit known as the Via fer­rata, Ital­ian for “iron road,” that tra­verses a steeply slop­ing rock face.

“Ini­tial in­ves­ti­ga­tions show that the worst-hit area was at Via fer­rata. There were many boul­ders that came down there,” Ma­sidi Man­jun, tourism min­is­ter for Sabah state, told re­porters.

Climber ‘crit­i­cized’ Res­cue

Ef­fort

Res­cuers Satur­day had es­corted down to safety 137 hik­ers who were stuck on the moun­tain for up to 18 hours by the rock­falls.

But an Aus­tralian climber

ac- cused Malaysian au­thor­i­ties slow and chaotic re­sponse.

“(Of­fi­cial res­cue crews) were look­ing rather lost re­ally, and it was the moun­tain guides who did most of the work at­tend­ing to the in­jured, strap­ping peo­ple into stretch­ers, get­ting ready to take them down the moun­tain,” Vee Jin Dum­lao told the Aus­tralian Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion.

“The whole gov­ern­ment emer­gency re­sponse was a farce,” she said, ask­ing why hik­ers were not reached by he­li­copter.

Of­fi­cials have said poor visibility made a he­li­copter mission danger­ous.

Sabah state Tourism Min­is­ter Ma­sidi Man­jun said on Twit­ter: “It’s easy to pick on weak­nesses of S&R ef­fort and I’m sure they are many. Now is not the time to blame.”

Dozens of af­ter­shocks have fol­lowed the main quake, in­clud­ing a Satur­day af­ter­noon 4.5-mag­ni­tude tem­blor.

Fri­day’s quake was one of Malaysia’s strong­est in decades but there have not been any re­ports of ma­jor dam­age, nor any ca­su­al­ties out­side of those at Mt. Kin­a­balu.

Climb­ing has been suspended for at least three weeks so au­thor­i­ties can make re­pairs and as­sess safety risks.

Around 20,000 peo­ple com­plete the rel­a­tively easy climb each year.

Mt. Kin­a­balu is sa­cred to the lo­cal Kadazan Dusun tribe.

Of­fi­cials and so­cial me­dia users have blamed the quake on a group of 10 ap­par­ently West­ern men and women tourists who last week­end snapped nude pho­tos at the sum­mit and posted them on the In­ter­net, say­ing the act an­gered tribal spir­its.

Ma­sidi said two Cana­di­ans had been de­tained but de­clined to iden­tify them or say what charges they may face.

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AP

In this Fri­day, June 5 photo, climbers trek down the Tim­po­han Trail with the help of lo­cal moun­tain guides on Mount Kin­a­balu in eastern Sabah state on Bor­neo, Malaysia, af­ter the 4,095-me­ter-high moun­tain was struck by a strong earth­quake.

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