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Tourists Stranded On Mount Kinabalu After Earthquake

Mount Kinabalu

A strong magnitude 6.0 earthquake has hit Mount Kinabalu in the Malaysian Borneo.

Three British tourists are among at least 130 people estimated to be stranded on the mountain. Malaysian officials report 11 injuries due to rock falls after the earthquake struck on Friday near the mountain in the state of Sabah, Borneo island.

There are thought to be hundreds of climbers from 16 countries stranded on the popular peak.

They include 117 Malaysians, 38 Singaporeans, five Americans, four Dutch, three British, two French and two Australians.

Other tourists from Belgium, Thailand, the Philippines, Kazakhstan, India, New Zealand, South Korea, Denmark and China are also believed to be stranded. Park’s director for the state of Sabah, Jamili Nais, says two injured climbers were rescued from the mountain.

Last weekend Western looking tourists snapped nude photos on the peak, and uploaded them to social media. Locals believed at the time that it was “a bad omen”.

The Telegraph reports:

So far 52 climbers had made it down safely, Mohd Affendy Ramin, the public relations officer for Sabah Fire and Rescue department, said.

State officials were quoted by the New Straits Times saying at least four climbers had suffered injuries including broken bones and head wounds as the quake loosened stones and boulders on the 13,435-foot mountain’s wide granite crown.

Authorities have ordered an estimated 200 climbers and at least 40 local guides to stay put at the summit for now due to lingering danger from falling stones and because rockfalls had rendered at least one key descent route impassable.

Fire and rescue officials said the climbers included both foreigners and Malaysians, according to local news reports.

The force of the tremor was so strong that it snapped off one of the two “Donkey’s Ear” rock outcroppings that form a distinctive part of the peak’s craggy profile, tourism minister for Sabah state Masidi Manjun said on his Twitter feed.

“Bad news confirmed! Part of the iconic ‘Donkey’s Ear’ @Mount Kinabalu is gone due to strong tremor this morning,” he said.

The picturesque mountain, a major tourist draw, has been closed for climbing until further notice.

The US Geological Survey said the quake struck at around 07.15 am (00.15 BST) at a depth of six miles, with its epicentre located about 34 miles east of Kota Kinabalu, capital of Sabah. No tsunami warning was issued and there were no initial reports of major damage.

Colin Forsythe, a resident of Kota Kinabalu, said the quake lasted around 15 seconds and felt “as if a truck had crashed into a brick wall”.

Residents throughout the quake-affected region reportedly fled in panic from homes and buildings, including Kota Kinabalu’s International Airport.

Social media users uploaded photos showing damaged roads, shattered storefront windows, cracked walls and floors and rooms strewn with debris flung from shelves.

There were no report of any deaths from the quake.

Major earthquakes are rare in Malaysia, which lies just outside the Ring of Fire, the belt of seismic activity running around the Pacific basin.

Thousands of people complete the relatively easy climb of Mount Kinabalu each year.

The force of the tremor was so strong that it snapped off one of the two ‘Donkey’s Ear’ rock outcroppings on the peak’s craggy profile

Malaysia is on a school break and the peak was busy with visitors at the time of the tremor.

Unless those stranded at the top can be brought down, they face a chilly night on a moonscape-like summit frequently lashed with heavy rain and where night temperatures can dip well below freezing.Mount Kinabalu

Most climbers attack the peak early in the morning after overnighting at a resthouse perched at 10,730 ft above sea level.

The vast majority spend only a few hours on the peak before heading back down and thus typically do not take food or camping equipment.

Sabah’s state parks director Jamili Nais was quoted by the New Straits Times saying that the injured would be brought down using helicopters.

But other officials later said at least one helicopter had to turn back due to bad weather, and that a team of local guides may try to carry supplies up on foot instead.

Mount Kinabalu is sacred to the local Kadazan Dusun tribal group, who consider it a resting place for departed spirits.Mount Kinabalu

A group of 10 apparently Western men and women angered locals last weekend when they snapped nude photos at the summit and uploaded them on the Internet.

Some Malaysian social media users posited that the quake was a sign the spirits had been angered by the act.

Authorities have not yet publicly identified the Caucasian-looking tourists or their suspected nationalities. Media reports said they had already left the country.

Edmondo Burr

BA Economics/Statistics
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