Friday, June 12, 2015


It was early morning last Friday. I was up and impatient to see the progress of my seedlings. While Mr. Hubby kept the Princess company I ran out to hose the plants in the front yard. That was when I saw my ornamental bush moving vigorously: side to side, side to side. I thought the vehicles driving past must be producing unusually strong air currents to make the bush move so much.

Mount Kinabalu seen from the Kokol Hills.

Then the front door burst open and Mr. Hubby, looking quite alarmed, rushed out. My first thought was Oh no! The baby has hurt herself!

But Mr Hubby said: Ada earthquake! Ada earthquake!

Huh? That’s a big word to use, I thought. “A tremor,” I corrected him. “Has happened before.” But he refused to calm down.

“The house shook,” he said, “my chair moved!” I still thought it was a tremor but I checked my Fb newsfeed to see if any of my friends had felt the earth moving. And most did!

 “Did you feel that?” someone asked.
“Did the earth move?” 
“I thought someone was shaking my bed!” 
“There were sounds coming from the roof and I thought it was the cat,” Meg said.
“I thought I was very ill,” said Muthu who had obviously been on his feet when the earth moved.
The tremor was felt as far as Beaufort.

Before long, someone confirmed that it was really an earthquake with its epicenter in Ranau, deep inside the mountain. Magnitude 6.0 is no laughing matter for a place which has experienced nothing more than mild tremors.

If we in KK had experienced a sudden rush of adrenalin when we felt the house shake for a few moments, imagine the terror felt by the stranded climbers on the peak of Mount Kinabalu when the earthquake struck. Imagine the horror and panic they must have felt when the mountain shook and when rocks and boulders rolled down the mountain threatening to flatten anyone they met on the way down.
Pic credit: Gaby Peter

We on safe ground could only follow their ordeal and predicament on Fb... like I followed Gaby Peter's. We couldn’t feel the hunger and thirst they felt. We couldn’t feel the cold and the biting wind as they patiently waited for help, the help that never came.

I can't even begin to imagine the sense of helplessness and dejection they must have felt after waiting from morning—the earthquake struck at 7.15am—just to be told at 4pm that they had to stay the night at the peak because the helicopter couldn’t land and so the rescue effort would be stopped and only continued the next day.

Spending the night on the mountain peak and being exposed to the freezing cold, wind and rain meant the climbers would suffer hypothermia. It was possible that those who aren't used to the extreme condition could just go to sleep and never woke up again.
Pic borrowed from Fb

The mountain guides knew the climbers wouldn’t survive the freezing night atop the mountain. On their own initiative, they goaded the climbers by asking them to choose between staying on the peak and die or die while attempting to save their lives by climbing down the mountain. 

They chose to descend. 

Sadly, four mountain guides lost their lives while trying to save the lives of the climbers in their groups. It was also very tragic that several young school kids didn’t leave the mountain alive. However, after several hours of hiking and struggling in the dark, along boulder-strewn paths or newly-made alternative routes, as well as traversing very steep slopes, 135 climbers reached the foot of the mountain. They were exhausted, starving and thirsty but they were alive.

How many would have survived had they spent the night on the mountain top is anybody’s guess.

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