KOTA KINABALU - The threat of more avalanches is slowing down recovery works on Mount Kinabalu and its surrounding areas, said Datuk Masidi Manjun.
The Sabah tourism, culture and environment minister said the many tonnes of boulders along Mount Kinabalu and those washed down to rivers in the aftermath of the June 5 quake were still unstable.
"The main concern is how we can prevent boulders, especially those stuck at the 6.3km to 6.8km (Laban Rata and summit plateau) route that was the most severely hit, from falling and injuring climbers," he said.
He said aftershocks were still occurring, bringing the number of recorded tremors to more than 100 as of July 1.
"The mountain, now a changed face, needs a month or two or even longer to stabilise. Until then, everything on top and in its path is at risk of being dislodged and tumbling down again," Masidi said.
However, they hope to reopen Mount Kinabalu to a limited number of climbers by September if aftershocks stop and a new trail had been formed.
"Our utmost priority is to keep climbers safe and it would be unfair to force the reopening on our planned date if tremors have not stopped by then," he said.
He said the mountain was not the only problem as many rivers, farms, plantations and villages are affected due to the mudslides that occurred about a week after the quake.
"People living along the riverbanks are also in danger of getting washed away if another surge of mudfloods occur, as the rivers are now 'smooth' without rocks and other retaining materials in them," he said.
"If another downpour happens, water would flow very fast and strong, which will put the lives of people along riverbanks at risk," Masidi said in explaining that natural water retainers such as plantations and trees that were also damaged.
"Without these water-retaining agents, rivers and streams would probably dry up and plantations such as vegetables and paddy on the foothills of the mountain will not have enough water," he said.
Therefore, he said they would take into account all aspects of restoration and rehabilitation as the quake had triggered various potential problems.
Meanwhile, Masidi said two committees has been set up - coordination of restoration and other related matters headed by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman, and implementation and rehabilitation programmes chaired by Masidi himself - to look into the restoration of the mountain.
"We are still gathering facts including the extent of damage on all aspects," he said.