Sabah quake: Australian climber slams Malaysian rescue efforts, hails local guides

An Australian climber who was caught atop Mount Kinabalu in Sabah when a 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck on Friday has slammed the Malaysian government's emergency response, instead praising the efforts of local guides for her rescue, according to th
An Australian climber who was caught atop Mount Kinabalu in Sabah when a 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck on Friday has slammed the Malaysian government's emergency response, instead praising the efforts of local guides for her rescue, according to the Malaysian Insider. -- PHOTO: EPA

AN Australian climber who was caught atop Mount Kinabalu in Sabah when a 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck on Friday has slammed the Malaysian government's emergency response, instead praising the efforts of local guides for her rescue, according to the Malaysian Insider.

Ms Vee Jin Dumlao was among 137 climbers on the peak when the 7.15am quake hit Ranau, approximately 20km from the Mount Kinabalu park.

Ms Dumlao, a clinical psychologist from Sydney, said the earthquake had blocked their passage back down the mountain.

"We had just completed the ascent to the peak, and we were making our descent, taking some photos when we heard a loud crash, and felt the ground shaking," she told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "When our guide took our empty water bottles to be refilled, at perhaps 1pm... they came back with news of massive landslides and the route having been decimated and no certainty of rescue."

She called the Malaysian rescue effort a farce, saying that "they (emergency workers) congregated in groups sharing smokes and food that were meant for survivors. Help at the critical areas didn't arrive till 9 hours later".

The Malaysian authorities had said bad weather had prevented the landing of a rescue helicopter.

But Ms Dumlao countered that, writing on her Facebook page: "Fog was quoted as the reason for not rescuing the climbers. That was certainly true earlier in day.

"But the sky cleared beautifully and the air was still by 4pm but they were determined to leave us up there overnight in cold hunger and potential flash-flooding if it rained.

"Helicopters came to drop off two boxes of supplies but they dropped off over the cliffs onto inaccessible landslide rubble when there was a huge expanse they could have aimed for."

However, she said the local mountain guides were heroes.

"They risked life and limb and made some difficult decisions that ultimately saved our lives. Many had homes affected in the quake," she said on Facebook.

"They lost friends and family. Yet they remained with us, guiding us to safety till the very end.

"They could have made it down the mountain quickly on their own with their agility. Yet they stayed and did what they could to meet our needs. They risked continuing tremors and rockfalls to refill our bottles with water from the nearest hut.

"I witnessed guides, not emergency workers, securing the injured onto stretchers which they carry down the mountain."