Sabah quake: Aussie climber's account may have been clouded by trauma, says Malaysia's National Security Council

Malaysian rescue officials mark their current locations on the information board located on the way to Mount Kinabalu during a rescue mission on June 6, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA
Malaysian rescue officials mark their current locations on the information board located on the way to Mount Kinabalu during a rescue mission on June 6, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The now-viral account of the Sabah earthquake by an Australian climber and her criticisms of the official rescue efforts may have been clouded by her traumatic experience, says National Security Council secretary Datuk Mohamed Thajudeen Abdul Wahab.

In a press release issued on the council's website, Mohamed Thajudeen refuted Ms Vee Jin Dumlao's claim that no helicopters came to rescue the climbers stranded on Mount Kinabalu's peak following rockfalls caused by the earthquake on June 5 which measured at 5.9 on the Richter scale.

"From where Ms Dumlao was standing, the skies were probably clear. She was on top of the mountain. However, just below the peak of the mountain, the skies were not clear, it was covered in a thick layer of clouds that were impenetrable. Helicopters were sent up as promised, the first one at 12.02pm, but the helicopter was unable to pierce the clouds. Twice the helicopters tried. Both times they failed," he said.

Mr Mohamed Thajudeen added that when the helicopters were finally able to penetrate the cloud cover, they were unable to land safely without endangering everyone on Mount Kinabalu's peak.

"Their last resort was to air drop the food and the supplies. But, due to the weather being hostile, and the winds blowing strongly, the pack got blown down to an inaccessible area. Ms Dumlao believed this was done on purpose. The intention of the pilot was obviously to drop the supplies to the trekkers, however, due to the weather, the supplies were blown into the ravine," he said.

Mr Mohamed Thajudeen also challenged Ms Dumlao's view that the Malaysian government was determined to leave the climbers on Mount Kinabalu, saying that such "unfair allegations" must be clarified and adding that Ms Dumlao was probably unaware of what actually took place due to the trauma she went through.

He said rescuers were sent in three batches - one at 9.30am, second at 1.35pm, and third at 3.30pm

"The first team reached KM6.5, they met with a group who had injured trekkers and brought the group to the camp Laban Rata. When the other two teams reached Laban Rata, they were advised by the guides to not go up further. The falling stones and the changing landscape of the mountain would make Mount Kinabalu a dangerous place to navigate in the dark," he said.

He further challenged her claim that many more people could have been rescued if the rescuers has done their jobs and the helicopters had arrived on time.

"I don't disregard her views and I don't dispute her. However, from the hospital reports that we received relating to the post mortem of the victims, they died an instant death. Again, Miss Dumlao's assumptions were incorrect," he said.

Ms Dumlao, an Australian, had criticised the rescue efforts following the earthquake saying that they were left stranded and decided to make the perilous journey down the mountain by themselves. She had also said the mountain guides did most of the rescuing of the stranded climbers.

Mr Mohamed Thajudeen said that he understood the circumstances regarding Ms Dumlao's frustrations and criticism of the official rescue efforts.

"It's understandable when you're faced with a horrible situation, time seems to stand still, minutes seem like hours, and hours seem like days. For Ms Dumlao, her experience on Mount Kinabalu was tragic and frustrating. When tragedy hits, we tend to assume that everything is going wrong, I don't blame her. The circumstances that she was under made her to comment in the way she did," he said.