Fear keeps villagers near Mt Kinabalu on edge

KUNDASANG - Lingering fears of more rockfalls and mudslides are keeping villagers on the foothills of Mount Kinabalu on edge.

Most of the 700 villagers at Kampung Mesilau here have been on stand-by mode as they prepare to flee their homes at a moment's notice following Monday's massive mudslides, which saw large boulders tumbling down Sungei Mesilau.

"I spent the night at the Kundasang mini hall. I have returned to pack up documents and clothes. I have not decided whether to leave," said Mr Samsul Lasim, 48, a father of four children.

"Our village is at risk if mudslides and rockslides recur in heavy rains. It is washing down the mountain," he said.

Mr Muadin Saidin, 63, said he had never felt so vulnerable in all his life at Mesilau.

"The river has always been calm and even if there were mudslides, they were always minor," Mr Muadin said, adding that the fish had disappeared since the June 5 Mount Kinabalu earthquake that killed at least 18 guides and trekkers.

The problem, he said, was that water flowing down the river had uprooted trees and displaced huge boulders, creating mini dams along the slopes. When it rains heavily, it overflows and causes problems downstream.

Mr Muadin, a farmer, said: "I am ready to take people to the upper reaches of the river to inspect these areas and help villagers clear these dams."

Ranau district officer Faimin Kamin said although the situation had calmed down somewhat, villagers should not take things lightly.

He urged the 28 families still staying put at Kampung Mesilau to move to safer ground as soon as possible.

The Fire and Safety Department issued an evacuation order on Monday night as a precautionary measure, he said. Mr Faimin said no houses or buildings were reported damaged, but there were many inaccessible areas.

However, it is understood that a road and bridge to the Mesilau Nature Resort were wiped out by 12m-high floodwaters.

It was the same at another bridge adjacent to the Mount Kinabalu Golf Club that links Mesilau vegetable farms and many small chalets and private homes.

Most of the chalets and homestays in the Kundasang area were closed after more than 60 aftershocks struck the area after the 5.9-magnitude quake.

Geologists explained that the earthquake had loosened many parts of the mountain and rockslides and landslips would occur until earth movement settles down.

A Public Works Department spokesman in Ranau said work to set up an alternative route into the affected areas was under way and water and electricity supplies were being restored.

THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 18, 2015, with the headline 'Fear keeps villagers near Mt Kinabalu on edge'. Print Edition | Subscribe