Sabah quake: Don't belittle the efforts of our rescuers, says Sabah minister

A Singapore victim being examined by personnel from Malaysia's Fire and Rescue Department and Civil Defence Department during a rescue mission in Kundasang on June 5, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA
A Singapore victim being examined by personnel from Malaysia's Fire and Rescue Department and Civil Defence Department during a rescue mission in Kundasang on June 5, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA

KUNDASANG, SABAH (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The efforts of Sabah's search and rescue personnel should not be criticised, Masidi Manjun, the state minister for Tourism, Culture and Environment has said.

"Please don't belittle our efforts,'' Datuk Masidi said to critics of the search and rescue operations following the earthquake that struck Mount Kinabalu on Friday morning.

"It is easy to complain but we need to understand the situation and what has been going on the past few days,'' he said.

His comments came after several foreign and local climbers who were stranded on the mountain after the earthquake criticised the rescue operations.

One of them, Australian climber Ms Vee Jin Dumlao slammed the Malaysian government's emergency response, instead praising the efforts of local guides for her rescue, according to the Malaysian Insider.

Ms Dumlao, a clinical psychologist from Sydney, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that 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."

Mr Masidi said there was a need to hear both sides of the story.

"Our rescue personnel are doing their best under trying circumstances," he said.

Assuring those critical of operations in the aftermath of Friday's earthquake, he said measures would be taken to improve any apparent weaknesses.

"We will look into all complaints. We will be carrying out a post-mortem to improve our response in the future," he said.

Local mountain guides, however, came in for praise.

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