'It's as if...(their) own house has collapsed'

'It's as if...(their) own house has collapsed'
Many of the Mountain Torq staff have been affected by the closure of Mount Kinabalu after the earthquake, said the company's marketing director, Ms Quek I-Gek (above)
PHOTO: TNP

Many of the Mountain Torq staff have been affected by the closure of Mount Kinabalu after the earthquake, said the company's marketing director, Ms Quek I-Gek.

Speaking to the media yesterday, she said the morale of the roughly 30 staff has been very low and many are worried about the future.

These include trainers and housekeepers based in Pendant Hut, a rest house at Laban Rata, which is close to the mountain summit.

The staff spend much of their time on the mountain and the quake has been a devastating blow, Ms Quek said.

"It's as if... (their) own house has collapsed," she added.

After the earthquake, local authorities decided that Mount Kinabalu will be closed for three weeks as it continues to be rocked by aftershocks.

Businesses dependent on tourists climbing the mountain, like Mountain Torq, have been badly hit. While there have been many donation drives raising money for the mountain guides, staff at Mountain Torq do not qualify for it.

Mountain guides and porters lead groups on treks up the mountain, whereas trainers at Mountain Torq only take groups through the Via Ferrata routes.

But Ms Quek said her staff are still being kept on the payroll.

She said: "(My staff) are like family and you don't abandon your family just like that."

The company is also unsure of the extent of damage caused to the route because they are waiting for the mountain to settle down before the condition of the trail could be assessed.

Mountain Torq trainer Hilary Augustinus, 34, was one of those leading the TKPS group through the simplified Via Ferrata trail on June 5.

RAINING ROCKS

The pupils and teachers were split up into five groups to tackle the Via Ferrata and he was leading the first group when the earthquake struck, he said.

Describing scenes of raining rocks, he said the situation at that time made him feel helpless and he could only crawl into a crevice to wait out the rockfall.

When the coast was clear, Mr Augustinus crawled out to find his colleagues and many pupils injured.

He tried to get as many as possible to a nearby helipad, which was safer than being near the rocks.

Around the same time, he also found out that two of his fellow guides were killed.

Calling them "two of my best friends", he said that had they been the ones who were injured, they would want to help as many pupils as possible, too.


This article was first published on June 18, 2015.
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