Malaysian Earthquake Strands 137 Climbers On Mount Kinabalu

Severe weather in Kundasang hampered Malaysian mountain guides attempting to rescue 137 climbers stranded on Mount Kinabalu after a magnitude 6.0 earthquake hit the town of Ranau on Borneo island early Friday morning.

The summit of Mount Kinabalu sits at 13,435 feet (4,095 meters) above sea level, making it the highest peak in southeast Asia. It’s a popular destination visited by hikers, beginners and experienced alike, from all over the world.

Ascending to the peak generally means two days and a night. The first six to eight hours take you to Laban Rata, a rest stop about two-thirds of the way up the mountain. After taking several hours to relax, climbers usually depart early in the morning to make the four to five-hour trek to the top to view the sunrise.

There were 137 climbers at the top when the powerful quake shook the island. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the earthquake hit at around 7:15 a.m. local time. The epicenter was 33 miles (54 km) from Mt. Kinabalu near Ranau at a depth of 32,800 feet (10 km).

Ten people were injured by rockslides caused by the quake, which also left the paths down the mountain hazardous as darkness fell.

Tourism minister for the Malaysian state of Sabah, Masidi Manjun, quickly took to Twitter to make regular updates about the progress of the rescue efforts and the stranded climbers. He was the first to report that one of the climbers had succumbed to their injuries.

Thirty-two guides went up to the peak to lead the climbers and wounded safely to the bottom. Manjun posted pictures of the guides rescue efforts.

But the concern wasn’t just with getting the wounded off the mountain. Manjun pointed out that there were other concerns.

“Other than ongoing rescue efforts, our priority is to send food, drinks and warm clothing to those still stranded on the mountain.”

The power of the quake also had consequences to the mountain itself — the recognizable double rock formation at the top called the “Donkey’s Ear” now has only one ear.

Fortunately, all the stranded climbers have now safely reached Panar Laban station with all 32 guides.

To see a video of the effects of the quake and learn more about what happened, take a look at the CNN video below.

Do these types of natural disasters seem to be happening more often? Is this just at the tip of the iceberg?

[Image courtesy Mount Kinabalu]

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