Sabah quake: Guide says he heard woman's screams for help

Sabah quake: Guide says he heard woman's screams for help
Malaysian rescue team members carrying an injured Singapore student in Ranau district, where Mount Kinabalu is located. Yesterday, rescuers finished escorting down to safety 137 hikers who were stuck on the mountain for up to 18 hours. The quake had damaged a key trail and there was the danger of more rockfalls.

Kota Kinabalu - Ms Rahinah would never forget the day when the ground rippled and creased before her eyes.

It was her first experience with an earthquake, which jolted a wide swathe of the Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo island and left at least 13 people dead and another six missing.

"I was not sure if it was an earthquake because I could hear sounds from the earth," Ms Rahinah, who gave only her first name, told the Borneo Post.

"I saw the earth moving like a small wave. It was scary, because I never saw anything like this before."

The 29-year-old housewife lives with her family in the Sabah district of Ranau, one of the many places where the tremor was felt on Friday.

While there have been no reports of major damage or casualties in most parts of Sabah where buildings and roads cracked, hikers and climbers who were scaling Malaysia's highest peak, Mount Kinabalu, when the earth rattled described deadly rockfalls.

"I heard a woman screaming for help, but I could not do anything. The earth was shaking," said a terror-stricken mountain guide who had just led his group down to the safety of Timpohon Gate, one of the two main starting points for climbs to the peak.

"Boulders, some as big as cars, were crashing down along with rocks. We ran down.

"I really don't know what happened to the woman. She might be buried under rocks."

He did not say who the woman was or give his name, The Star reported.

Kinabalu is among the top attractions in Sabah famed for its rainforests, wild rivers and coral reefs that draw tourists worldwide.

The force of the tremor was so strong that it toppled one of the two Donkey's Ears, towering twin rock outcroppings that form a distinctive part of the peak's profile. Climbers' huts at Panar Laban and Gunting Lagadan were also badly damaged.

Climbers from 16 countries had been stranded on the mountain, including 117 Malaysians, 38 Singaporeans, five Americans, four Dutch nationals, three Britons, two French nationals and two Australians.

There were also tourists from Belgium, Thailand, the Philippines, Kazakhstan, India, New Zealand, South Korea, Denmark and China, Ranau district police chief deputy superintendent Farhan Lee Abdullah told a news conference at the Kinabalu Park headquarters.

Rescuers yesterday finished escorting down to safety 137 hikers who were stuck on the mountain for up to 18 hours after the quake damaged a key trail and they faced the threat of more rockfalls.

The Thai and Philippine embassies in Kuala Lumpur said four Thais and four Filipinos have been rescued.

Malaysian crews and officials engaged in further search and rescue efforts were kept on edge by aftershocks, including an afternoon temblor yesterday that Malaysian officials rated at 4.5 magnitude.

The authorities have not provided a breakdown or given details on the number of injured people.

It is also not clear exactly how many Malaysians and tourists were on Mount Kinabalu during the quake.

"There are 13 (dead) bodies. Two yesterday and 11 today," DSP Farhan told AFP yesterday.

"We've got six people still missing. I cannot confirm with you where they are from."

Among those missing are pupils and teachers of Tanjong Katong Primary School.

Sabah Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun told reporters: "It's very sad. The Singapore children were so happy when they arrived here, but now..."

For Malaysian Lee Yoke Fah, 60, this will be the last time he climbs the mountain. It was his fourth ascent on Friday.

"I have always enjoyed the climb but I have never experienced this. It was really frightening. I will not climb again," he said.

This article was first published on June 7, 2015.
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