Sabah quake: Mural by artists the focal point of a day of mourning across Sabah

People paying their last respects to the victims of the earthquake at Mount Kinabalu at the graffiti corner of the old ruined colonial building in Kota Kinabalu. -- PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK
People paying their last respects to the victims of the earthquake at Mount Kinabalu at the graffiti corner of the old ruined colonial building in Kota Kinabalu. -- PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KOTA KINABALU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Monday was a day of mourning for the victims of the earthquake at Mount Kinabalu, the worst natural disaster at the World Heritage Site.

Across Sabah yesterday, flags flew at half-mast as families buried their loved ones and others waited to identify the dead at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital mortuary. Singapore also marked yesterday as a day of remembrance.

The outpouring of grief began as early as Sunday evening when people lit candles at the graffiti corner of an old ruined colonial building in the heart of the city.

At a corner wall, three local artists painted a mural depicting mountain guide Mhd Rizuan Kauhanin, who became the symbol of Mount Kinabalu's unsung heroes for their rescue efforts in the aftermath of last Friday's 5.9-magnitude earthquake.

The camera-shy Rizuan, 25, of Kampung Lembah Permai in the mountain's foothills, was named a hero after a photograph of him carrying an injured teenage boy on his back went viral on social media.

The vigil saw Malaysians and foreigners of various faiths offering prayers for the 18 victims who lost their lives in the tragedy.

Many, dressed in black, placed flowers at the corner and several people were seen in tears.

The artists, led by Mr Craig Francis, decided in a spur of moment to paint a picture of the guide carrying the survivor to show their solidarity with the victims and their families.

"We did it in two hours and posted a photograph of it on Facebook and Instagram.

"Suddenly, it went viral and by evening people were coming to light up candles and pray.

"I was surprised with the response," said Mr Francis.

At the Kinabalu Park headquarters, bouquets of flowers were placed at a memorial commemorating the declaration of the mountain as a World Heritage Site.

One handwritten note placed alongside the flowers read: "Malim Gunung, Climbers and Porters. May Your Souls Rest in Peace."

The mood at Kinabalu Park remained sombre yesterday, with search operations scaled down and only a handful of guides and uniformed personnel heading up to recover body parts buried under the rubble of rocks and boulders.

When the earthquake struck, 277 people, including 187 climbers, were on Mount Kinabalu.

Within 24 hours, 265 people, including 69 injured, were accounted for, and as of Monday, 18 were classified dead.

The dead were nine from Singapore, Malaysia (six), and one each from the Philippines, Japan and China. The Singaporeans comprised largely students aged 11 and 12 on a mountain expedition.