Sabah quake: Give full support to students and family members, says Heng

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat spoke to reporters after meeting pupils from Tanjong Katong Primary School and their parents yesterday. This is what he said:

"This has been a very difficult time for everyone. I thank fellow Singaporeans for their thoughts and prayers, and for their support. I also appreciate the strong support from the Malaysian authorities.

I am relieved that they have been able to account for 21 of the students and six teachers. Of this group, 19 students have returned together with two teachers.

I have spoken to the teachers and the students. The students are a little shaken, but otherwise they are fine and they have been reunited with their family members. I ask that your full support be given to all of them for care and counselling, and for follow-up action.

I am very anxious about the remaining students and teachers who are still unaccounted for. I sent a team of Ministry of Education officers together with other ministry officials down this morning and they were in Kota Kinabalu by early afternoon.

The operations are in full swing, and we are in close touch with the parents who have also flown in together with us. We will provide every support to the parents. Our officials are working very closely with the Malaysian authorities to do our very best to locate the children and teachers who are missing.

One boy is receiving treatment in the hospital. I am very sad that one pupil has been confirmed to have passed away. The parents have been informed.

I am aware that there is a photograph circulating on the Internet speculating whether these are our students. Our officers are working very closely on the ground with the Malaysian authorities to try and verify the information. We are also working very closely with the parents. But until we have ascertained the facts, I appreciate that we give the families privacy.

It is a very difficult time for everyone and I hope that fellow Singaporeans will continue to support all the affected family members. We will do our utmost to do everything that we can to provide the support, to work closely with the Malaysians. We will press on, and the operation will continue as long as it is needed to make sure that we do everything within our means."

This article was first published on June 7, 2015.
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