KUNDASANG: Poor visibility and strong winds were key reasons why helicopters could not be used to rescue stranded climbers near the summit of Mount Kinabalu following Friday's earthquake.
Sabah Parks chairman Tengku Datuk Zainal Adlin Tengku Mahamood said a helicopter was chartered barely an hour after the quake to carry out an assessment of the situation on the mountain.
"The fog was so thick and visibility so limited that it was too hazardous for the helicopter pilots to attempt to go through," he said.
He said the helicopter pilots tried to approach the mountain from different areas such as Kota Belud and Mesilau without success.
Sabah Fire and Rescue Department director Nordin Pauzi said poor visibility around the mountain summit was a key factor why helicopters could not be used to airlift the climbers on Friday.
"We took into consideration a lot of factors," he said.
Helicopters may have sophisticated instruments to enable them to be flown in low visibility conditions but with no control tower, landing on the mountain would mean that they would have to depend on visibility alone, Nordin added.
He said strong winds near the summit on that day could also cause mishaps for helicopters.
An Australian climber Vee Jin Dumlao had criticised the rescue efforts following the earthquake saying that they were left stranded and decided to make the perilous journey down mountain by themselves.
Dumlao also claimed that the mountain guides did most of the rescuing of the stranded climbers.