9 bodies found on Malaysia mountain as quake toll reaches 11
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia—Rescuers on Saturday recovered the bodies of nine more climbers from Malaysia’s highest peak a day after it was struck by a strong earthquake, bringing the total number of dead to 11.
Eight more people are missing on 13,435-foot-high Mt. Kinabalu in eastern Sabah state on Borneo, where a magnitude-5.9 earthquake on Friday sent rocks and boulders raining down the trekking routes, trapping dozens of climbers.
“This is a very sad day for Kinabalu,” said Sabah Tourism Minister Masidi Manjun.
He said the rescue team would try to airlift the bodies down from the mountain but may be hampered by bad weather.
Most of the other climbers made it down the mountain in the darkness early on Saturday, some with broken limbs and one in a coma. Among the dead retrieved on Friday evening were a 30-year-old local guide and a 12-year-old Singaporean student, said district police official Farhan Lee Abdullah.
Police said earlier on Saturday they were looking for 17 others, including eight Singaporeans, and one each from China, the Philippines and Japan. The rest are Malaysians. The nationalities of the nine dead who were later recovered were not immediately clear.
About 60 rescuers and four helicopters were combing the mountain, where loose rocks and boulders that fell during the quake blocked part of the main route.
The quake also damaged roads and buildings, including schools and a hospital on Sabah’s west coast. It also broke one of the twin rock formations on the mountain known as the “Donkey’s Ears.”
Masidi said the mountain would be closed for three weeks for maintenance work.
Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Pairin Kitingan blamed the tragedy on a group of 10 foreigners who “showed disrespect to the sacred mountain” by posing naked at the peak last week. He said a special ritual would be conducted later to “appease the mountain spirit.”
The foreigners, who included two Canadians, two Dutch and a German national, broke away from their entourage and stripped naked before taking photos at the mountain peak on May 30, officials have said.
Sabah police have said that five of the tourists were believed to still be in Malaysia and would be barred from leaving on the offense of gross indecency.
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